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Einar Þorleifsson and Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
World Birdwatch vol. 25 no. 2, June 2003
As reported in the previous issue of World Birdwatch (25(1):7), a huge dam is being built in a remote part of Iceland to supply hydroelectric power for an aluminium smelter. The development is vigorously opposed by Fuglaverndunarfélag Íslands (Icelandic Society for the Protection of Birds, ISPB, Birdlife in Iceland). ISPB’s Einar Ó. Thorleifsson and Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson discuss the likely impacts on the unique wildlife and scenery of this pristine environment. Read More
Mines and Communities
February 19 2003
THE “WOOF” AND ITS WEB-FOOTED FRIENDS
Birds have a habit of coming home to roost. None more so than the rare pink-footed geese, who winter in Britain and nest and feed at Karahnjukar in Iceland every year. Whether dodgy deals by conservationists also come home to roost is open to question.
However, the world’s biggest public-subscription conservation organisation now faces what might (just) be its biggest controversy yet. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, or”WOOF” as its fondly known) seems split down the middle over a new sponsorship deal. Read More
by Severin Carrell
Feb 16, 2003
Senior executives at one of the world’s richest conservation groups, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), are at loggerheads over a corporate sponsorship deal that will affect the fate of three species of goose. The dispute involves plans for a major dam being built by Alcoa, an aluminium giant with unusually close ties to WWF’s American arm.
The proposed dams in Iceland are likely to completely destroy the nest sites of 1050-1350 pairs of Pink-footed Geese (equivalent to four per cent of the UK wintering population). In addition, thousands more are likely to be affected less directly by impacts such as the effects of hydrological changes on the birds.
The Icelandic Government will put thousands of pairs of nesting Pink-footed Geese at risk by sanctioning two hydro-electric schemes, BirdLife International said today. Iceland has almost 90 per cent of the global population of this small goose, almost all of which winter in the UK, mainly in East Anglia and Scotland [1,2].
“BirdLife International estimates that as many as one in seven of the Pink-footed Geese that visit the UK in winter could be affected or displaced by these hydro-electric schemes”, said BirdLife Europe’s Conservation Manager, Szabolcs Nagy. “The two affected sites – Utherad and Thjarsarvar Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – are globally recognised, but Iceland seems determined to renege on its international conservation commitments and to damage and destroy substantial portions of these sites.” [3,4,5] Read More
Sep 27 2002
Scott Clouder profiles the company that links BacoFoil with the US treasury secretary, a Mexican sweatshop and an Icelandic wilderness.
At the end of July Alcoa, the world’s largest producer of aluminium, signed an agreement with Iceland’s national Landsvirkjun power company and the Icelandic government to build a large smelting plant in the country’s eastern wilderness. Alcoa is offering to finance the construction of an adjoining hydropower plant in an undisturbed area north of Vatnajokull Glacier, including access roads and a large dam. This will enable it to buy electricity cheaply – which is useful considering around 60 percent of the cost of producing aluminium is the cost of energy. The project is set to be one of the largest investments ever in Iceland, and will change the course of two of the country’s largest glacial rivers and turn various valleys and canyons into reservoirs. All this is proposed for an area which, at three thousand square kilometres, is the second-largest wilderness in Europe. Nature conservation organisations all over the world have campaigned to have the place designated as a national park but the construction will disturb about half of its 22 protected sites of special natural interest and an important reindeer calving area.(1)
Iceland’s State Planning Agency originally vetoed the plan because of the environmental impact, but the decision was overruled by the environment minister, Sif Fridleifsdottir. Read More
The Sidney Morning Herald
By Gerard Ryle
May 7 2002
Quentin Treasure was a member of a local land-care group when he was approached to take part in an unusual experiment by the West Australian Agricultural Department.
The department wanted to spread a reddish substance over his farmland to see if it would stop unwanted phosphorus from entering waterways.
The bonus, Mr Treasure was assured, was not just environmental. He could look forward to vastly increased crop yields using a soil-improving agent that would cost him just 50¢ a tonne.
But this was no ordinary product. It was industrial waste.
The trucks dumping tonne after tonne of the ochre-like material were coming straight from settling ponds at the nearby Alcoa aluminium refinery, which was co-funding the project.
“We never talked a lot about whether it was safe or not,” Mr Treasure said. “We were just told it was dirt from the hills that came from Alcoa. And being a little bit naive at the time, that is all we assumed it was.” Read More