'Landsvirkjun' Tag Archive

Jan 16 2006

‘Damned Iceland’


Peace News, Issue 2470

Over the summer of 2005, about a hundred activists from around the world got together to protest against overwhelming environmental destruction and corporate greed. No, not the “pop Muppets” in Hyde Park, this was a gathering of international protesters — who trooped into the Arctic Circle to show much-needed support and solidarity to the Saving Iceland campaign.

The Saving Iceland campaign began in 2004, when the Icelandic government had bypassed a series of laws in order to allow the national power company, Landsvirkjun, to build a gigantic hydroelectric dam, now being constructed in the country’s eastern highlands.

The National Planning Agency originally refused to grant permission to the first proposal in 2001 due to the irreversible negative environmental impact the dam would have.

Incredibly, the then environment minister (whose only qualification is a GNVQ in physiotherapy) announced that the project was actually environmentally sound, and overturned the NPA decision — even though the dam will be of no benefit to her country or its inhabitants.
Power will not be generated for the Icelandic people, but for a smelter for US aluminium giant Alcoa: they are building their metal furnace in a pristine fjord at Reydarfjordur. With abulging back-pocket of cash, this hugely costly project — both financially (it will ultimately cost $1 billion) and of course ecologically — was set to begin. Interestingly, Alcoa is also facing massive criticism over a proposed 340,000 metric ton smelter plant in Cap De Ville in the Caribbean Island of Trinidad.

A hellish creation

Karahnjukar, the location chosen for the dam, offers a stunning landscape of jagged black mountains and sweeping green hills which frame the ferocious glacial river, Jokulsa Bru. It is this river which is being diverted into another large river — Jokulsa iFljotsdal — and dammed to power the hydro-electric plant. Not only is a glacial river being manipulated, but the construction of the plant also involves dynamiting a dormant volcano, and the entire hellish creation rests on a cluster of active geological fissures.
Sound dodgy yet? Well, the environmental vandalism doesn’t stop at Karahnjukar, as most of Lansvirkjun’s other plans envisage the harnessing of several rivers formed at Europe’s largest ever glacier Vatnajokul and the creation of reservoirs in surrounding areas. The biggest reservoir, Halson, will reach 57 square kilometres in area and be created by the highest rock-fill dam in Europe — covering three percent of breathtaking Icelandic beauty in murky water. All to generate power for a long queue of salivating multinationals.
People living in towns and farms near the dam-affected areas have been persuaded by the promise of employment — even though there is virtually no unemployment in Iceland and most people interviewed said that they would not work in an aluminium smelter in any case. But once the natural resources have been exhausted, employment in these regions will probably be lower than ever, because all that will be left for bored teenagers to hang out on — and for visitors to marvel at — will be a barren corpse of nature.

Greenwashing, skyr style

Unsurprisingly, the announcement that Europe’s least polluted country (a virtue the government has used to lure tourists onto the island for years) is to be given an industrial makeover has been met with outrage from most of the people who live there.
Icelanders have stood for hours in silent vigils outside the commons and Bjork’s mother did a three-week hunger strike. However, fluffy protest seemed to have little effect.
Direct action finally arrived in Iceland when three activists chucked green skyr (Icelandic yoghurt) over delegates at an international aluminium conference, drawing attention to the greenwashing that has been used to cover up the real cost to the environment of aluminium smelters and the dams that power them.
The meeting was completely disrupted and the three activists were arrested and later charged with trespass and cleaning bills of up to #320,000. Their case returned to court in January, with two of the activists sen tenced in a Reykjavik municipal court to two months in prison (suspended), a #6,000 “cleaning up bill”, plus a fine and court costs. The owners of Hotel Nordica reckoned it cost more than #5000 to hire a carpet cleaner for two hours.

Time for more action

The support and attention generated by the yoghurt incident suggested that more spiky actions were the way forward. When environmentalists from the UK, US, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Germany and France landed in Karahnjukar during the summer, Icelanders were treated to a fireworks show of direct action with the area seeing the nation’s first ever protest camp!
The hills of moss mattresses decorated with fairy-sized flowers of the most vibrant colours became beds for six weeks, and the delicate streams that laced them, washing facilities. Here, in excellent proximity to the dam (the entrances to the site were five minutes’ walk along the stream) they were able to reccie, plot and carry out a succession of actions. As more protesters arrived in Iceland after the G8, sufficient numbers were gathered to carry out an effective blockade.
On the anniversary of the signing of contracts with Alcoa — 19 July — activists decided this was an appropriate date to lock-on to road vehicles at one of the main road intersections of the site.
Baffled policemen stood scratching their heads for three hours whilst work on the entire site was halted: people were arrested but not charged.
Although the police and security responded peacefully on this occasion, on a second blockade — where protesters were locked onto the front of vehicles by their necks — officers instructed drivers (many of whom are Chinese or Portuguese and do not speak Icelandic) to turn on their engines, risking people’s lives. Fortunately no one was hurt, but three people were piled into a bus by specially flown-in riot police (the “Viking Squad”!) and one young man was reportedly held down and repeatedly punched in the stomach by the poice.
Due to pressure from the authorities, the owners of the land where the camp was based withdrew their permission to let people stay. The camp relocated nearby and, despite heavy police surveillance, more actions were successfully carried out. During one action a group of protesters entered the construction site and unravelled a long banner down the dam wall displaying a massive jagged black line. This drew attention to a newly-developed crack in the dam area which, geologists fear, is just the first of many to come. If the dam bursts the results will be catastrophic, killing thousands and wrecking the viable farmland in the east.
In a separate action three cranes were also occupied at the aluminium smelter, stopping work for five hours! The police nervously climbed the cranes to remove protesters and arrested them when back on the ground.

Catalysing support

Although much more Icelandic support had been gained as a result of last summer’s events, the international network of support for the campaign also represents a global struggle. The conversion of powerful, living and beautiful nature into heavy industry in Iceland is a microscopic example of what’s taking place all over the world — from the Narmada Dam in central India to the Three Gorges Dam in China.
In January there was a big environmental benefit gig, held to draw attention to the situation in Iceland. Acts included Bjork, Damon Albarn, Damien Rice and Sigur Ros. It tookplace in Reykjavik and all proceeds will go to “ecological resistance”. We don’t know if it will go to Saving Iceland but if it does then it will fund this summer’s protest camp. Two more benefit gigs will also take place — one in Sheffield [held as PN went to press], followed by one in London in spring.
Over the next few months, Saving Iceland campaigners will also be spreading the word in a European Tour and preparing for the next protest camp — due to start on 21 July 2006. The flooding of Karanhjukar is scheduled to start at the beginning of September — so we will need all the help we can get!
Although we can sometimes feel small as activists, if we can stop what will only be an environmental tragedy in Iceland, we can send a powerful message to the other corporate monsters — to wrench their filthy claws out of our planet.

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For more info see the “Join the Fight” section at http://www.savingiceland.org.
Support actions are very welcome – anywhere in the world. Email  savingiceland at riseup.net.

Jan 14 2006
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Saving Iceland Interview with Björk


The interview was conducted at the time of the Stop the dams! gig in January 2006. Björk is an internationally acclaimed musician and has often spoken out against the heavy industry policy of the Icelandic government. Björk will be joining the international protest camp near Kárahnjúkar this year.

Josie Demuth: What, for you, makes Icelandic nature so special that you want to stop it’s destruction and participate in this concert?

Björk: It is the largest untouched area in Europe and I feel it is not only my duty to speak out as an Icelander but as a European. The situation has reached a cross roads, Iceland’s economy which was 70 per cent fish went down, so what instead? The attention went from the sea to the land. Fifteen years ago they stopped building a dam in the 1970s because people spoke out and there were artistic protests. But now in 2005 there is this industrial revolution and this way of thinking to sacrifice nature for progress. They are not long term benefits and we can do so much more with nature. We can work with nature, for example, hotels have been put up all over Iceland, and there are tourist centres to tell tourists about the nature. We will not be able to rewind this natural destruction and as I’ve travelled I’ve begun to realise that this is not a modern way of thinking. 50 years ago were independent but what are we gonna do in 100 years now? We are not making progress with this. Read More

Dec 19 2005
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STOP THE DAMS – INTERNATIONAL CONCERT!!!!


SOLD OUT

BJÖRK * ZEENA PARKINS * MÚM * DAMIEN RICE * LISA HANNIGAN * GHOSTIGITAL * DAMON ALBARN * EGÓ * MAGGA STÍNA BAND * MUGISON * RASS * SIGUR RÓS * KK * HAM * HJÁLMAR + SURPRISE GUESTS

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Nov 10 2005

Aluminity – The New Religion – It´s Official!!


hangover?“It’s just as if they wanted to ban a religion”
.Icelandic government faces difficult criticism from Left-Greens over heavy-industry policy.

Yesterday MP’s of the Left Green Party criticised severely the government’s aluminium policy, saying that Stalin himself couldn’t have done better in creating a mass-production industrial hell and likened Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company, to the Fenrir of Iceland (Fenrir, in Norse mythology, is a gigantic and terrible wolf that according to a prophecy will be responsible for the destruction of the earth).

In his reply the Prime Minister, Mr. Asgrimsson, implied that opposing the destruction of nature for multinational aluminium corporations amounted to “wanting to ban a religion”.

Mr. Ásgrímsson’s answer may explain why most MP’s and ministers don’t listen to scientists’ and other professionals’ warnings and ignore the outcries of people who are losing their jobs and companies which are going bankrupt as a result of the unhealthy expansion of the small Icelandic economy, directly caused by the gargantuan Kárahnjúkar project.

But now we know, it’s a question of faith!

Oct 25 2005

Fight Against ALCAN Taken to Scotland


25 October 2005

Five people locked together using lock-on tubes blocking the only access road and denying entry to vehicles supplying equipment essential in the infrastructure and operation of the ALCAN smelter at Fort William, Scotland. The blockade started at the beginning of the morning shift change and lasted for almost five hours.

 

ALCAN scotland 

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Oct 06 2005

Supreme Court Rules Alcoa Smelter is Illegal


Iceland Review
06/10/2005

Supreme Court invalidates environmental assessment of Alcoa smelter.

Perfect factory site?Site of the illegal smelter

 

Yesterday the Supreme Court of Iceland invalidated the decision of the Minister of the Environment to waive the requirement for Alcoa to undergo an environmental assessment before obtaining a license to operate the smelter currently under construction at Reyðarfjörður on the East Coast. Read More

Sep 28 2005

Environmental Facts and Figures of the Kárahnjúkar Project


From The Icelandic Society for the Protection of Birds

The building of a gigantic hydropower station has started on the northern edge of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull in Iceland. The power station is needed for the provision of 770 Megawatts for an aluminium smelter being planned by Alcoa in Eastern Iceland, with a capacity of 370,000 metric tons per year. In order for this power capacity to be delivered, one of Iceland’s largest glacial rivers will have to be diverted into another large glacial river, and huge reservoirs will be required in order to maintain the power capacity required throughout the year. The facts and figures of this planned massive intervention in this unspoilt wilderness area are as follows:

• Reservoirs: the largest (Hálslón) will flood 57 square km of land, and a further smaller reservoirs will submerge another 10 square km.

• Dams: the biggest one, in the canyon at Kárahnjúkar, will be 190m high and 770m long; 3 medium-sized dams are collectively 32m high and 1000m long. Additional smaller dams will be built.

•The water will be diverted to the turbines through a 70 km long tunnel/gallery.

• The 150 km long glacial river, Jökulsá á Dal, which has carved out for itself one of the deepest and most attractive canyons in Europe (Dimmugljúfur Canyon, 15 km long – 200 m deep), will be converted to an insignificant stream.

•The diversion of the waters into another glacial river will result in immense changes to the Lagarfljót glacial river (140 km long). Its natural drainage will have to be artificially enlarged and the huge estuary delta will have to be reconstructed.

• Altogether, 3,000 square km or 3% of Icelands total landmass will be affected by this irreversible intervention in the environment. The area affected, where the natural environment and habitats will be destroyed, extends from the edge of the Vatnajökull Glacier to the estuary of the Héraðsflói glacial river.

• A total of 40 square km of land now covered with vegetation will be submerged forever. Soil erosion in the central highlands is one of the greatest environmental problems Iceland has to cope with. It must be feared that the planned reservoirs, where the deposits carried by the glacial rivers will end up (some 10 million metric tons per year), poses an erosion danger when the water level in the reservoirs sink. Yearly water level fluctations of the Hálslón reservoir are 75 m and up to 3/4 of the reservoir will be exposed to wind erosion. This will occur in /winter and spring, when the water reserves will be drawn on. This is the time of year for the wildest storms and even more vegetation will be threatened and covered by the masses of sand and dust carried by violent winds. The effected area of soil erosion will be up to 400 square km.

• A unique former geothermal region with plant fossils will be flooded.

• Flora and fauna: The affected area is one of the few regions in Iceland where the soil and vegetation are still more or less intact. Opponents of the project point out that the project would have unforeseeable consequences for the water table.

• This part of Iceland is home to 1500-2000 reindeer (Rangifer tarrandus) whose summer pastures would be flooded. The total population of reindeer in Iceland is around 4000 animals.

• Some 400-600 female harbour seals (Phoca vitulina vitulina) breed every year on the Jökulsá á Dal delta. By redirecting the river the colony (3-4% of the Icelandic population) would be destroyed.

• The Kárahnjúkar project would affect two IBA’s (BirdLife – Important Bird Areas). Among the bird species whose existence is threatened or would be affected by the changes which the project would bring are:

• Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) – 220 pairs
• Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) – 3800 pairs affected
570 nests would be flooded by the Hálslón reservoir and 2200 pairs would in immediate danger.
9-13.000 moulting geese in the Eyjabakkar IBA will be directly affected by the project.
• Greylag Goose (Anser anser) – 2000 breeding pairs, 10.000 moulting birds affected
• Pintail (Anas acuta) – 100 pairs; 20% of the total Icelandic population

• Shoveler (Anas clypeata) – 5 pairs, one of the rarest Icelandic duck species
• Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) – 27 pairs
• Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) – 1000-2000 pairs
• Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) – over 700 pairs
• Great Skua (Stercorarius skua) – 265 pairs, 5% of the total population
• Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) – some 1300 breeding pairs (possibly the world’s largest breeding colony in Úthérað IBA)

Icelandic Society for the Protection of Birds
P.O. Box 5069 • 125 Reykjavík, Iceland • Tel: 562 0477 • Fax: 551 6413
 fuglavernd at fuglavernd.is

ISPB (Icelandic Society for the Protection of Birds) in English

Sep 20 2005

Images – 2005 Protest Camp at Kárahnjúkar, Skriðdalur and Reykjavík


suckscr
Alcoa graedir

Sep 17 2005

Archaeological Ruins Discovered at Kárahnjúkar – Landsvirkjun Orders: “Destroy anything within the Hálslón basin.”


Saving Iceland

Ruins of three houses from the 10th and 11th centuries have been discovered at the archaeological excavation site at Háls by Kárahnjúkar. Three houses are underneath a layer of ash from the Hekla eruption of 1104.

archeosite

A discovery that revolutionizes our
understanding of the Sagas
dig
dugover

Same site a few days later

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Sep 17 2005

Reindeer Revenge on Barclays


Barclaysbrella 

On Tuesday the 17/09/2005 the Students Union of the University of Sussex held their annual freshers fair, where new students are given freebies that no-one needs in exchange for custom. During this event, about 6 students dressed in reindeer-like costumes merrily surrounded the Barclaycard stall. Read More