QCOSTARICA – For once illegal dredging has been discovered in the northern zone that has nothing to do with Nicaraguan disregard for this country’s territory. This week, a phone call to 911 emergency services led police to stopping the dredging of a wetland protected zone in the Los Chiles aea.
Police say that starting last week, an oversized backhoe began digging out a 180 meter long channel, four meters wide (about 13 feet) by four meters deep. Sunday, patrolman Carlos Villalobos ordered the backhoe operator to cease his apparently illegal work.
The Ministry of Environment’s inspection agency, Sinac, informed the national newspaper La Nacion that the work was being done through wetlands close to an ecological corridor that allows wildlife to pass from one protected area to another, vital for survival of some species.
Apparently, the order to cease and desist was followed because the backhoe was found and photographed Wednesday stopped with the operator nowhere to be found. The Ministry is investigating whether the permit issued by the environmental agency Setena and a Ministry permit in 2011 were legal.
But protection of wildlife is not the only issue at stake here. Director of the conservation area Rogelio Jimenez told La Nacion that the channel could well reverse the flow of water and lead to flooding in the high rainfall area. “We’re completely convinced that there should be no damage to the wetlands,” said Jimenez firmly.
Ana Cristina Mendez, a Ministry biologist in the Los Chiles area, told the paper that apparently a fruit growing company wanted to use the channel to irrigate a plantation of orange trees during the dry season. She refused to identify the company by name.
The Medio Queso wetlands are of great scenic beauty and the home of tropical birds. The Medio Queso River flows into the San Juan River that divides (in more ways than one) Nicaragua and Costa Rica.