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Dam-Building Protested in London

October 25, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ Nine demonstrators outfitted with harnesses and rain gear scaled London’s 450-foot-high Millennium Wheel by the River Thames before dawn Monday to protest dam-building projects in Spain and India.

More than six hours after the protesters, members of a Basque and an Indian group, scaled the wheel, some began to climb down. The seven who descended were arrested on charges of criminal damage, police said.

After dark, police crawled up the structure to talk to the two remaining protesters. But the police climbers came down alone, saying the demonstrators had decided to remain on the wheel overnight.

The protesters had evaded a 24-hour security guard at the newly erected London landmark, which stands opposite the houses of Parliament and dwarfs Big Ben. On the top of the wheel they unfurled banners reading ``Stop The Dams.″

The demonstration was mounted by Basque environmentalists from the group Solidarios con Itoitz, who oppose the construction of the Itoitz reservoir in Spain’s Basque country, and an Indian Group, Narmada U.K.

The Indian group says a giant government-sponsored development of dams in the Narmada Valley in central India will leave more than a million people destitute and without land.

The $33 million wheel, among Britain’s most conspicuous monuments to the millennium, is the fourth-tallest structure in the capital.

It was hauled upright Oct. 17. Its 32 passenger-carrying glass capsules will open to the public on the millennium eve.

British Airways, which sponsored the wheel, said it was looking into the security implications of the protest.

``It is too early to speculate about how exactly this happened,″ said airline spokeswoman Louise Evans. ``If we need to review security we will do so.″

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