Press Responses : Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Agency accused of ignoring environment:
PUBLICATION The Edmonton Journal
DATE Tue 04 Apr 2000
BYLINE Dennis Bueckert
Damaging projects cited by lobby group Canada's Export Development Corp. is financing environmentally disastrous projects in poor countries under a cloak of secrecy, critics charged Monday. But the federal agency says it assesses the environmental impact of every project it supports, publishes as much information as it can and operates in accordance with the laws of countries where it has dealings. The corporation promotes Canadian exports by providing financing and insurance to foreign customers.
Pamela Foster, of the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corp., said the EDC is leading an international ``race to the bottom'' in placing profit ahead of the environment or human rights. ``Unlike the World Bank or the U.S. export credit agencies, the EDC is not required to take assessments of final impacts when financing a dam, a nuclear reactor or a mine,'' said Foster.
The lobby group, supported by 14 environmental, labour and human rights groups, released a report on the EDC titled Reckless Lending.
Topping the list of controversial projects to get support is China's Three Gorges Dam, which will require the relocation of between 1.3 and two million people. Also cited is the Urra hydro dam in Columbia which has allegedly wiped out fish that were a prime food source for indigenous people and led to conflict between protestors and the military. In an unusually strong response for the low-profile agency, corporation officials challenged most of the claims in a news conference immediately following the report's release.
Spokesperson Eric Siegel said the corporation applies``appropriate'' standards of environmental assessment depending on the project. He said World Bank standards are often used but added some worthwhile projects would be blocked by rigid application of the standards. He noted Canada is providing less than one half of one per cent of funding for the Three Gorges dam, and the project would go ahead with or without it.
The corporation says it rejects about one third of applications, often for environmental reasons.