Three Gorges Probe

Canada now sole supporter of world’s riskiest and most destructive dam project

Three Gorges Probe
May 31, 1996

US Export-Import Bank rejects involvement in Three Gorges dam decision applauded by environmental groups worldwide.


After a protracted and heated debate, the United States Export-Import Bank announced yesterday that it will not provide financial assistance for US companies vying to build China’s massive Three Gorges dam.

At a Washington DC press conference Thursday afternoon, acting Ex-Im president Martin Kamarck announced that the Three Gorges project is "inconsistent with the Export-Import Bank’s environmental guidelines."

The decision by Ex-Im, a federal agency that provides loans and insurance for American companies bidding on foreign projects, was immediately applauded by environmental groups worldwide, many of whom have been opposing the dam’s construction for nearly a decade.

"The Three Gorges dam will be the world’s greatest man-made disaster," said John Thibodeau of Canadian environmental group Probe International. "Ex-Im made a prudent and wise decision in refusing to become involved in such a destructive project."

If completed, the Three Gorges dam will forcibly uproot 1.3 million people, create a lake the size of Lake Superior, threaten numerous endangered species such as the rare Chinese dolphin, and submerge thousands of cultural relics — some of them over 10,000 years old. The dam has come under fire from engineers and environmentalists from around the globe and from eminent scientists and economists within China.

In recent months, Ex-Im had been under intense political and corporate pressure by those in favour of the project. American companies Caterpillar, Rotec, and Voith Hydro claimed that they stood to lose $500 million in contracts if Ex-Im were to deny them assistance. Various Members of Congress lobbied hard on their behalf. However, the Ex-Im decision will likely please others within the US administration. In September 1995, the White House urged the Ex-Im Bank to "refrain from offering commercial assistance in connection with the Three project." Ex-Im, an independent agency, was not bound by the White House recommendation.

The US decision further isolates Canada as the only country currently offering federal loans for exporters involved in Three Gorges. In late 1994, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced that Canadian firms would be eligible for export credit loans from Canada’s Export Development Corporation. EDC’s first loan for Three Gorges, a Cdn$12.5 million loan to the Chinese government to purchase a $35 million computer system from an Ontario-based company, was approved in January of this year.

"The decision by the Ex-Im Bank should shame the Canadian government," said Mr. Thibodeau. "The Canadians now stand alone against a tide of evidence that this project is environmentally, socially and economically unviable. It’s a boondoggle, and Canada’s the only country supporting it with taxpayer funds," he added. Last March, Probe International and 60 Canadian and international environmental groups asked Prime Minister Chretien to review EDC support for Three Gorges. The government has so far refused the request.

Critics feel that without international financial and technical support it will be very difficult for the Chinese government to complete the dam.


Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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