Rio de Janeiro – Hundreds of Indians and peasants opposed to the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric project in Brazil's Amazon region ended a protest at the construction site Friday in compliance with a court order, state-run media reported.
The peaceful demonstrators, who ended their nearly 15-hour occupation by clearing a nearby road, did not cause any damage during the protest, the official Agencia Brasil news service reported.
Police and an officer of the court had arrived on the scene to enforce an injunction issued late Thursday by a municipal judge in the city of Altamira who ordered the protesters to end the occupation.
The Indigenous Missionary Council, a Catholic organization, said 600 people took part in the protest, including Indians from 21 ethnic groups, fishermen and people living on the banks of the Xingu River, the Amazon tributary where the dam is planned.
The Indians say the government did not consult them about Belo Monte, which will flood an estimated 516 sq. kilometers (200 sq. miles) of jungle near their lands, and are demanding a complete halt to the more than $10 billion project.
The dam in the northern state of Para is scheduled to come online in 2015 as the world's third-largest hydroelectric complex after China's Three Gorges and Itaipu, jointly operated by Brazil and Paraguay.
A dozen suits have been filed in the Brazilian courts to block the project and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission held a hearing this week in Washington on demands to halt the dam.
Brazil refused to send a representative to the session at the headquarters of the Organization of American States, prompting dam opponents to accuse President Dilma Rousseff's government of maintaining a "shameful attitude" toward the indigenous peoples.
First proposed in the 1970s by the military regime then ruling Brazil, the Belo Monte project was revived by the 2003-2011 administration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Rousseff played in a key role in promoting the dam when she was Lula's chief of staff, touting it as one of the Amazon region's most important energy initiatives.
The price tag for the dam, which will have a generating capacity of 11.2 GW when the Xingu River's water level rises during the rainy season, has been estimated at $10.6 billion.
The Brazilian government defends Belo Monte as necessary to ensure the country has sufficient electricity supplies and denies that indigenous lands will be flooded, but environmentalists say the project will be inefficient and have a devastating impact.