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Ecuador's national water authority Senagua has expropriated the first plot of land in Manabí province to begin construction of the Chone multipurpose water project.
Armed protestors who were occupying the land were eventually removed without force, state newspaper El Ciudadano reported.
The first phase of the project, budgeted at US$52mn, involves building the Rio Grande dam and reservoir and the San Antonio drainage canal. Work will be carried out in three phases and is expected to take three years to complete.
Future phases involve a 2,200ha irrigation system, rainwater drainage networks in Chone municipality, a potable water plant and distribution infrastructure.
The project aims to control flooding in the region and supply water for irrigation and human and industrial use during the dry season, benefitting some 170,000 people.
In August, protestors threatened officials working on the project and tried to attack the company in charge of construction, preventing work from going ahead.
President Rafael Correa has said the project will continue despite demonstrations.