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In UN court, Argentina sues Uruguay over pulp plant on shared river

In UN court, Argentina sues Uruguay over pulp plant on shared river

Argentina has filed a suit against neighbouring Uruguay, in the United Nations court that adjudicates disputes between States, for building pulp mills on the river that forms their mutual border, saying that the resulting pollution endangers the environment in defiance of a 1975 pact between the two countries.

In its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), made public on Thursday, Argentina charges the Government of Uruguay with having, unilaterally authorized the construction of a pulp mill near the town of Fray Bentos in October 2003 on the River Uruguay, “without complying with the obligatory prior notification and consultation procedure” provided for by the 1975 statute.

The country claims that Uruguay has “aggravated the dispute” by subsequently authorizing the construction in the same area of a second pulp mill along with port facilities.

It maintains that the mills will “damage the environment of the River Uruguay and its catchment zone,” affecting over 300,000 residents who have expressed concerned over the “significant risks of pollution of the river, deterioration of biodiversity, harmful effects on health and damage to fisheries resources,” and the “extremely serious consequences for tourism and other economic interests.”

According to the ICJ, the 1975 Statute of the River Uruguay governs “the conservation, utilization and exploitation of natural resources and the prevention of pollution” and establishes an Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay, which has functions of regulation and co-ordination.

Argentina is asking the court to affirm Uruguay’s obligations to abide by their mutual pact and award damages for its breach. Pending a final decision, it requests an order for Uruguay to immediately halt constructions of the mills and cooperate with Argentina on regulating use of the river.