Dam Shame

Activists Target Global Financiers of Chinese Eco Disaster

Merrill Lynch and Citigroup say they received assurances that none of that $500 million would go to Three Gorges. Even if that were true, says IRN's Shen, the fresh cash would certainly free up other China Development Bank resources for the dam. When it comes to Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, she's ready to declare war. IRN has launched a slick, comprehensive Web site, floodwallstreet.org, and begun organizing its boycott. It's not clear how effective that action will be—IRN has canceled a planned demonstration outside the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter annual meeting because it's too busy working with other groups on a massive April 16 protest of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. But IRN's campaign against Discover is endorsed by more than 40 other groups, whose combined mailing list numbers in the millions.

Meanwhile, the political mood in China may be shifting. The current premier, Zhu Rongji, "has never said a kind word about the dam," says Shen. He has launched a campaign to root out massive dam-related corruption. (China has said that around $600 million has been embezzled, and one official who stole $1.4 million and used it in gambling parties was recently sentenced to death.)

illustration: Brad Kendall

"The political will is waning," says FOE's Chan-Fishel. "We are optimistic the dam can be stopped." As the Chinese struggle to build a dam, the fate of a river, millions of people, and several species may depend on activists' abilities to stanch a flow of money. "The Three Gorges Dam needs capital from Western capital markets," says Billenness. "And if the project doesn't get that capital, then it is not going to go forward."

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