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US governor issues evacuation order for pipeline protest camp

Governor of US state North Dakota issued an evacuation order for a protest camp where Dakota Access Pipeline opponents have spent months expressing their disdain, the media reported.

Governor Doug Burgum on Wednesday signed the order "out of concern for the safety of people who are residing on US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) land in southern Morton county and to avoid an ecological disaster to the Missouri River," an official statement said.

Decreasing temperatures were cited as the impetus in speeding up the Oceti Sakowin camp's clean-up, ABC News reported.

"Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the protest camp, and the National Weather Service reports that the Cannonball River should be on the watch for rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams later this week," the statement said.

"Due to these conditions, the governor's emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury or death. The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from the waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited."

The US Army Corps of Engineers ordered on February 3 those camping on federal property to vacate to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in the area.

The Oceti Sakowin camp needs to be evacuated no later than February 22 in order to allow private contractors to accelerate the removal of waste from the camp, the governor's office added.

The pipeline project has ignited a debate among many groups whether the benefit brought can outweigh its risks.

The environmental conservation community has largely refuted the pipeline, saying soil and water contamination and air pollution may damage the environment and wildlife along the pipeline route, a concern shared by many farmers in the region.

The fact that the Lake Oahe is located in Indian reserve land also prompted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to object, saying the project threatens the tribe's "way of life, water, people and land".

The controversial project is an approximately 1,900 km pipeline that connects the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota and Patoka Illinois, the $3.78 billion project was planned to function by January 1, nearly 90 per cent is reported to have been completed.
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