Malaysia's Meenakshi Raman

The victory is bittersweet for Malaysian lawyer Meenakshi Raman. In 1997, she lost a court fight to block the $5.4 billion Bakun Dam, which would have displaced 10,000 Sarawak tribespeople from an area larger than Singapore and destroyed tropical rainforests. But now, the economic crisis has forced the government to postpone the project indefinitely.

Part of the Consumers Association of Penang, Meenakshi, 39, has an impressive record. Despite frequent harassment, including a detention without trial in 1987, she has stopped everything from unsafe drugs to ecologically unsound golf courses. Now, she is looking for ways to ease Malaysia's economic crunch. One effort: Helping farmers grow organic produce, so they won't need imported pesticides and fertilizers.

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