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Commission Urges Brazil to Halt Dam in Amazon

A member of the Kaiapo tribe holds a poster showing a picture of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during a protest against the construction of Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday Feb. 8, 2011.

The human rights arm of the Organization of American States is urging Brazil to halt work on a massive hydroelectric dam in the Amazon until the government deals with concerns of the region's residents.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made the request in a letter dated April 1. The commission calls on Brazil to immediately stop the licensing process for the Belo Monte dam project and take protective measures for the indigenous peoples who live in the area. The commission also calls on the government to give the groups access to environmental impact reports.

In Brasilia, the Foreign Ministry described the request as unjustified.

The $11 billion Belo Monte dam would require submerging at least 400 square kilometers of land. Builders would have to excavate land comparable to the work needed to build the Panama Canal.

Environmentalists and indigenous groups have said Belo Monte would devastate wildlife in the area. Opposition to the project also has come from British rock star Sting and American film director James Cameron.

Belo Monte would be the world's third-largest hydroelectric energy producer, behind China's Three Gorges Dam and the Itaipu Dam that straddles the border of Brazil and Paraguay.