The Diversion of the Water From the Meuse, Netherlands v. Belgium
On May l2th, 1863, Belgium and the Netherlands concluded a Treaty which purpose was "to settle permanently and definitively the regime governing diversions of water from the Meuse for the feeding of navigation canals and irrigation channels. Article I of this Treaty provided for the construction below Maestricht, in Netherlands territory, of a new intake which would constitute "the feeding conduit for all canals situated below that town and for irrigation in the Campine and in the Netherlands. When the economic development of the Belgian and Netherlands provinces of Limburg necessitated the enlargement of certain canals and the construction of new works, the two States signed in 1925 a new agreement designed to settle the differences which had arisen in respect of the construction programmes. After the rejection of this agreement by the Netherlands, the Netherlands proceeded to construct and complete an additional canal, a lock and barrage at Borgharen. On its part, Belgium began the construction of the Albert Canal, unfinished at the time of the judgment, a barrage and a lock. As no progress could be made in the settlement of the issue between the two States, the Netherlands initiated proceedings in the Court. The Netherlands asked the Court to declare that the works already carried out by Belgium were contrary to the Treaty of 1863. Belgium, on the other hand, asked the Court to declare that the Borgharen barrage was constructed in breach of the Treaty of 1863. The court analyzed the 1863 Treaty and decided that nothing prevented either Belgium or the Netherlands from making such use as they might see fit of the canals covered by the Treaty, when the canals did not leave their own territory. Each of the two States was at liberty in its own territory to modify such canals, to enlarge them, to trans-form them, to fill them in and even to increase the volume of water in them, provided that the diversion of water at the feeder mentioned in the Treaty and the volume of water to be discharged there from was not affected. For these reasons, the Court rejected both the Netherlands’ submissions and the submissions contained in the Belgian counter-claim.