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  • President Evo Morales inspects the waters of Silala near the border.

    President Evo Morales inspects the waters of Silala near the border. | Photo: Freddy Morales

Bolivia says it will start to improve productivity and settle families at Silala Spring in a bid to prove sovereign rights to waters along its border with Chile.

Bolivia has announced that it will start breeding trout with water from the disputed Silala Spring along its border with Chile.

The governor of Potosi, Juan Carlos Cejas, said on Wednesday in La Paz that authorities will reactivate projects for breeding trout and said other proposals will be announced to enhance productivity in the region of Silala to ensure its sovereign rights.

"We are working on new projects that will be productive for people to earn a living in the region," Cejas said, after meeting with President Evo Morales.

The governor also said there are plans to increase productivity, improve the road infrastructure and settle families in the region.

"We are going to improve the infrastructure between Potosi and Silala. If we want to establish sovereignty we must start investing in facilities for the people that are going to live in the region’’ according to Cejas.

President Evo Morales threatened to go to the International Court of Justice in the Hague in March to resolve a long-running but until now low-profile dispute over the river Silala.

Bolivia claims that waters from the Silala Spring, which crosses their shared border, rises in Bolivian territory and that Chile has been artificially diverting water since 1908.

President Evo Morales has taken a hard-line stance on the issue and refuses to accept that the waters should be shared equally between both countries.

"Chile has never recognized that the waters of Silala are ours’’ the president told a meeting of ambassadors in La Paz. "Now we demand that it has to recognize this, because the Silala waters belong to Potosi and to all Bolivians," Morales said.

Chile uses some of the water for its mining operations in the parched Atacama desert and says the waters are international.

President Michelle Bachelet said Chile would countersue with its own case in the Hague if Bolivia went ahead with its threat.

"We will carry out all necessary actions to protect our national sovereignty," she said. Chile says Bolivia has recognized the Silala as an international river for more than 100 years.

Bolivia claims that the waters of Silala have been privatized by a Colombian company, which distributes the waters to large private mining companies in Northern Chile without the consent of Bolivia.

"It is not possible that a Colombian company is selling the Silala waters to Chilean mining companies. Our water is being sold by Colombians to Chileans", the president said.

In 2013 landlocked Bolivia asked the International Court of Justice in the Hague to order Chile to negotiate over Bolivia’s claim for access to the Pacific Ocean.

That case is still being heard by the court, whose rulings are final and binding.

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