The Tucuruï¿½ Hydropower Complex is situated on the lower Tocantins River within the Tocantins-Araguaia River Basin adjacent to the Amazon basin in northeastern Brazil. The project was designed to be constructed in two phases, Phase I construction was started on November 24, 1975 and completed November 10, 1984, and the construction on Phase II began in June 1998 with the first turbine scheduled to be operational by December 2002. The complex was built with the primary motive of producing hydropower although the secondary goal of providing a navigable river route was later introduced.
The Grand Coulee Dam began in March 1999. The study was led by Professor Len Ortolano (Stanford University), and Doctor Katherine Cushing (Berkeley University), with the collaboration of the US Bureau of Reclamation, US Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration in the US, and BCHydro and Columbia Basin Trust in Canada.
The draft paper was presented to a meeting of interest groups that came together in Spokane, Washington on 20 May 1999. 60 people attended, a press release was issued, and the final scoping paper (July 1999) reflected the comments made at the meeting. The final scoping paper provided the broad terms of reference for the second phase of the study.
The Draft Final Report of the Grand Coulee case study was completed in December 1999 and was discussed at a final meeting of stakeholders organised by WCD on 13 January in Portland, Oregon. The final report was released in November 2000.
If completed, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It would stretch nearly a mile across and tower 575 feet above the world’s third longest river. Its reservoir would stretch over 350 miles upstream and force the displacement of close to 1.9 million people. Construction began in 1994 and is scheduled to take 20 years and over $24 billion.
In March of 1989, strong citizen opposition to the project in China forced the People’s Congress to suspend plans for the dam, but the project was swiftly resurrected by Premier Li Peng in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square.
In its campaigns against the dam, International Rivers Network has been calling attention to the environmental and social impacts of the project along with the international companies and banks necessary for construction.
In September of 1994, IRN and a coalition of US environment, development and human rights groups encouraged the US administration to withhold financial support for the US companies eager to bid for the project. After more than a year, the National Security Council concluded that the US government should stay clear of the controversial Three Gorges Dam. In May of 1996, the US Export-Import Bank announced that they would not guarantee loans to US companies seeking contracts for the dam. In addition, the World Bank, traditionally the largest funder of dams in developing countries, has also refrained from financing Three Gorges Dam.
Despite the warnings and protests by Chinese citizens and the media attention surrounding the project and its destructive impacts on China’s people and economy, major banks and government export credit agencies have been quick to fundraise for the dam.
Smoke and dust rise after demolition efforts begin in the town of Guizhou in Central China’s Hubei Province to make way for the Three Gorges Dam Project. To date, the Guizhou demolition has been the largest below the 135-metre water level of the future Three Gorges reservoir. (China NewsPhoto, March 24, 2002)
IRN is currently holding U.S. investment banks, namely Morgan, responsible for financing the dam through the underwriting of China Development Bank (CDB) bonds, a government run development bank that funds infrastructure construction. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, through its joint venture, China International Capital Corporation, has been an advisor to the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation on international fundraising possibilities since 1995. Approximately 65% of the Three Gorges Dam construction costs are financed by the CDB. Also being targeted are Goldman Sachs & Co and CS First Boston whose one billion dollar PRC general obligation bond offering at the end of 1998 reportedly funneled $200 million to the dam.
In response to letters sent by IRN questioning the wisdom of the banks’ involvement, representatives claim they’ve received assurances from CDB officials that none of the funds raised from the bond underwriting are going towards the dam. However, US bank representatives have not been able to provide copies of such assurances nor have they been able to explain how those assurances are being monitored.
Much of what project opponents had forecasted in 1989 is in full view for the world to see. Construction is currently facing massive corruption, spiraling costs, technological problems, major resettlement difficulties; all raising questions to the wisdom of pursuing the project further.
IRN hopes you will join in our effort to stop this investment and call on Wall Street banks to adopt and implement environmental and social criteria for their investment, underwriting and lending practices.