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Belo Monte Dam Site Occupation Ends In Brazil

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BELO MONTE PROTEST SAO PAULO
Representatives of indigenous tribes and environmental activists carry out a demonstration, in Sao Paulo, on August 20, 2011, against the construction of Belo Monte dam at Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River in the northeastearn Brazilian state of Para. Belo Monte is planned to be the third largest hydroelectric plant in the world. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA | Getty File

SAO PAULO -- Hundreds of protesters have ended their occupation of the construction site of one the world's largest hydroelectric dams, Indian rights activists said Friday.

Renato Santana of the Indian Missionary Council said more than 600 Indians, fishermen and river dwellers peacefully left the construction site of the Belo Monte dam Thursday night after a judge ordered their eviction.

They had taken over the work site Thursday morning to demand that work on the dam be stopped.

A spokeswoman for the Norte Energia consortium that is building the dam confirmed the end of the occupation. Andressa Lanzellotti said the protesters caused no damage and that work on the dam had resumed.

The $11 billion, 11,000-megawatt dam would be the world's third largest when completed on the Xingu River that feeds the Amazon.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other critics say the dam will displace thousands of Indians and cause environmental damage. The commission has urged the Brazilian government to halt construction.

The commission also said the government should consult with indigenous groups and others and give them access to environmental impact reports as well as adopt measures meant to protect their livelihoods.

Brazil's Foreign Ministry has rejected the suggestion and said Brazil had acted in an "effective and diligent" manner to respond to demands by environmentalists and local communities.

The government says the project is essential for Brazil's growing economy and that it will help lift millions out of poverty. It has also said the dam was designed to minimize environmental damage.

Environmentalists fear the project will lead to more dams in the Amazon, spurring development that will speed deforestation. Scientists say the region's massive rain forest is one of nature's best defenses against global warming because it absorbs carbon dioxide.

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