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Brazil activists end protest occupation of Amazon dam

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

More than 150 fishermen and indigenous people have ended their occupation of one of four construction sites for Brazil's controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon, the lawyer for a group opposing the project said Friday.

"After a meeting between indigenous leaders, fishermen's representatives and the management of the Norte Energia consortium in the charge of the construction, the occupation of the Pimental site ended late Thursday," said Maira Irigaray, an attorney for the US non-governmental organization Amazon Watch.

"There will be a bargaining round on April 3 between Norte Energia and the indigenous people followed the next day by one with the fishermen and area residents in Altamira," the town closest to the dam in the northern Amazon state of Para, she said.

Irigaray, who works with the "Xingu Vivo" movement that is spearheading opposition to the dam's construction, said the occupation, which began Thursday, was the sixth such protest at the site since last June.

Protesters accuse Norte Energia of backtracking on accords signed in June after 150 indigenous people occupied the Pimental area for three weeks.

They complain that fishing in the area is no longer possible and there is no drinking water.

Belo Monte, which is being built at a cost of $13 billion, is expected to flood an area of 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu River, displacing 16,000 people, according to the government.

Some NGOs have estimated that some 40,000 people would be displaced by the massive project.

The dam, expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of electricity, would be the third-biggest in the world, after China's Three Gorges facility and Brazil's Itaipu dam in the south.

Indigenous groups say the dam will harm their way of life while environmentalists warn of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and irreparable damage to the ecosystem.

Norte Energia said in June that some 17 socio-economic and environmental projects worth $117 million had already been launched in the region.

The federal government plans to invest a total of $1.2 billion to assist the displaced by the time the dam is completed in 2019.

The native peoples want their lands demarcated and non-indigenous people removed from them. They also are demanding better health care and access to drinking water.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130322/brazil-activists-end-protest-occupation-amazon-dam