'Dams' Tag Archive

Sep 07 2007

‘Glacial Rivers Reduce Pollution on Earth’ by Gudmundur Páll Ólafsson


Glacial rivers are not only the lifeblood of Iceland, but also of the whole planet.

River water contains sediment in suspension and various substances in solution; glacial rivers, especially, carry a large amount of sediment which increases as the atmosphere grows warmer.

River of Life

Rivers of Life

Glacial rivers carry the sediment out to sea, where it takes on a new and important role in binding the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) with calcium (Ca) and converting it into calcite and other carbonate minerals, immensely important in the ocean ecosystems of the world. Thus glacial rivers reduce pollution on Earth. This effect is greatest in recently formed volcanic territory such as Iceland, and the binding effect increases with rising atmospheric temperature.

Glacial rivers bind this gas which, along with some other gases, causes global warming and threatens the future of life of Earth.

When a glacial river is harnessed to generate electricity, this important function, and the binding of the greenhouse gas CO2, is diminished. What they generate is not GREEN ENERGY, as the advocates of hydro-power plants and heavy industry maintain, but BLACK ENERGY.

Dams and reservoirs hinder the function of glacial sediment in the oceans, and hence hydro-electric power plants that harness glacial rivers are far more harmful than has hitherto been believed. Read More

Sep 01 2007

Kárahnjúkar Reservoir Causes Major Movements of Volcanic Magma


Updated 1 October 2007

Icelandic geologists have now confirmed that the earthquakes at Upptyppingar were caused by the inundation of Halslon at Karahnjukar. Now that the inundation of the Karahnjukar area is completed the earthquakes have subsided, but only for the time being. The water levels of Halslon will be constantly fluctuating while the reservoir is operational.

This proves that the warnings of geologists like Grimur Bjornsson and Gudmundur Sigvaldason were very valid. The Kárahnjúkar dams are situated on a cluster of active geological fissures. The government withheld geological reports from parliament when voting on the dams took place.
The suppression of these reports, the official gagging order placed on Grimur Bjornsson and the general defamation that the concerned scientists experienced from government ministers, power companies and other State institutions was criminal. Those responsible should be made to answer for this.
Read More

Aug 18 2007
4 Comments

Hydropower Disaster for Global Warming by Jaap Krater, Trouw daily


Trouw (daily), Netherlands, 21 January 2007

Large dams have dramatic consequences. Ecosystems are destroyed and numerous people are made homeless, often without adequate resettlement. But it is yet little known that large-scale hydro-electricity is a major contributor to global warming. The reservoirs could, despite their clean image, be even more devastating for our climate than fossil fuel plants.

 

narmada mapA few years ago, I spent a month in the valley of the Narmada River, to support tribal activists who have been resisting the Sardar Sarovar dam in central India for decades. These indigenous inhabitants, or adivasis, are desperate. In their struggle, inspired by Gandhi, they attempt to drown themselves when their villages are flooded. Death seems preferable to being forced to move from their valley to tin houses on infertile, barren soil. If they’re lucky, they can live on land that nobody else wants, the only available in the densely populated India. This forced resettlement, made necessary by ´progress´, is not unsimilar to what befell American Indians or the Aborigines in Australia. The consequences of mega hydro: cultures die and alcoholism, depression and violence remains. Read More

Jul 02 2007

Role of River-Suspended Material in the Global Carbon Cycle


Sigurdur R. Gislason, Eric H. Oelkers, and Árni Snorrason

Geological Society of America
Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 2006)
Article: pp. 49–52
Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 2006)
Article: pp. 49–52

Abstract:

1. Institute of Earth Science, University of Iceland, Sturlugata 7, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland, 2. Géochimie et Biogéochimie Experimentale—LMTG/Université Paul Sabatier, 14 rue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France, 3. National Energy Authority, Grensásvegi 9, 108 Reykjavík, Iceland

The reaction of Ca derived from silicate weathering with CO2 in the world’s oceans to form carbonate minerals is a critical step in long-term climate moderation. Ca is delivered to the oceans primarily via rivers, where it is transported either as dissolved species or within suspended material. The relative importance for climate moderation of riverine dissolved Ca vs. suspended Ca transport stems from the total Ca flux and its climate dependence. Data in the literature suggest that, within uncertainty, global riverine dissolved Ca flux is equal to suspended material Ca flux. To determine how these fluxes depend on temperature and rainfall, a 40 yr field study was performed on 4 catchments in northeastern Iceland: Jökulsá á Fjöllum at Grímsstadir, Jökulsá á Dal at Brú, Jökulsá á Dal at Hjardarhagi, and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal at Hóll. Suspended material Ca flux depends more on seasonal and annual temperatures and rainfall variation than does dissolved Ca flux in all four catchments. For example, the average difference between the annual maximum and minimum daily suspended Ca flux for the Jökulsá á Dal at Brú is four orders of magnitude, whereas the difference for dissolved Ca flux is only approximately one order of magnitude. Similarly, the annual dissolved Ca flux for this river varies by a factor of 2.6, whereas its annual suspended Ca flux varies by a factor of 7.1. Because suspended material Ca flux is more dependent on climate, it provides a stronger negative feedback for stabilizing Earth’s temperature through the greenhouse effect. Read More

Mar 15 2007

Aerial Photos Reveal Massive Cracks in Brazilian Dam – Campos Novos Dam Builders Downplay Danger


Campos Novos 1

Click to enlarge

The design of the Campos Novos Dam is of exactly the same type as the Kárahnjúkar dams. The difference between the two dams is that Campos Novos is built on stable ground whereas the Kárahnjúkar dams are built on top of a cluster of active volcanic fissures. Geological reports warning of this were suppressed by the Icelandic government at the time when the Parliament voted on the Kárahnjúkar dams.

Read More

Feb 15 2006

14 March Day of Action against Dams, and for Rivers, Water and Life


From International Rivers Network

14 March is the International Day of Action against Dams, and for Rivers, Water and Life.

Inspire better stewardship of our rivers by taking bold action. Every year on at this time, people around the world lift their voices to celebrate victories such as dam removal and river restoration; to demand improvement in policies and practices of decision makers; and to teach others about issues threatening rivers and communities. Join us for the International Day of Action. The rivers cannot speak for themselves.

Take action for Rivers, Water and Life!!

For more information see: www.irn.org

Feb 08 2006

Impregilo Demo’d Over Iceland Dams


Oxford Autonomous Action

This morning, activists visited the offices of Impregilo New Cross Ltd, part of the company which is building the controversial Karahnjukar Dam in Iceland.

The campaigners turned up at 85e Centurion Court, Milton Park outside of Abingdon with banners, leaflets & drums. Wandering in to the first floor open plan office, they proceeded to speak to all the employees, including the senior management. One person met with the finance director of the company who promised to scan the leaflet and send it to their head office in Italy.

Everyone was remarkably polite and listened to what we had to say. Many of them had already heard about the dam, and we had to explain to them that it was not too late for Impregilo to pull out of this disaster waiting to happen.

Afterwards, an impromptu samba set was performed outside while all the cars in the area were leafleted. Read More

Jan 24 2006

Stop the Dams Concert a Massive Success


The Stop the Dams mega concert, featuring a once in a lifetime collection of artists, was a huge success. At the concert the dates to the next protest camp at the Kárahnjúkar project were announced, 21st July. Hundreds if not thousands of Icelanders are expected to attend. The destruction will be stopped!

Almost 6,000 people partied in protest against the devastation of Iceland’s wildernesses on January the 7th.

The lineup included KK, Björk and Zeena, Múm, Sigur Rós, Magga Stína, Rass and Dr. Spock, Damien Rice, Mugison, Lisa Hannigan, Hjálmar, Ghostigital, Damon Albarn (from Blur), Ham, and Egó. Performance artists and film-makers were also among the nearly two hundred artists that contributed to the event.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian (13 Feb ’06), Björk had this to say about politics and the dam: Read More

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.

Mar 04 2005
3 Comments

Ice Burks! – Schnews


This article served as a follow-up to  the ‘Power Driven’ article published in the Guardian in November 2003.

Schnews, 4th March 2005, Issue 487

Super-cool Iceland, the eco-tourist’s wet dream, right? Maybe not for much longer if the Icelandic government has its way.

You see, they’ve got a cunning plan to turn the whole country into a heavy industry paradise for all sorts of multinational scum, damming and flooding and generally trashing nature to power up a bunch of giant aluminium smelters and other slight blots on the landscape.

This is not an early April fool – it’s already started. The construction of the giant Karahnjukar dam in the Icelandic Highlands – one of Europe’s last surviving wildernesses – is well under way. Landsvirkjun (the national power company, a government quango) has a raft of further projects that would see 25% of the entire country dam affected by 2020: some vision.

Karahnjukar and most of Landsvirkjun’s future schemes harness glacial rivers fed by Vatnajokull – the biggest non-arctic glacier in the world. This glacier is the heart of a fantastically intricate eco-system: barren red and black Martian landscapes; geo-thermal springs and pools hot enough to take a bath in; rivers banked by deep, springy emerald green moss woven with tiny red and yellow flowers where no-one’s ever walked; the glacier’s own fantastic ice caves; seal breeding grounds on the black sand deltas to the north. All this will be destabilized and damaged forever if these dam projects are allowed to happen.

An international protest camp this summer aims to halt this war on nature. It’s going to be one hell of a struggle since the Icelandic government seems determined to push these projects through, no matter what opposition it faces.

What’s going on at Karahnjukar demonstrates the way that government operates. When plans for the mega-project were first submitted to the National Planning Agency (NPA) in 2001 they were rejected because of the “substantial, irreversible, negative environmental impact” the dam would have. All the experts agreed with this verdict (see IRN’s report linked below). But the environment minister overturned the NPA’s ruling and declared that in her opinion the project was environmentally acceptable – of course she is suitably qualified to decide on environmental issues – she’s a physiotherapist! There were a few financial hiccups with banks getting all ethical but Barclays bravely stepped forward with the necessary dosh – even though they’d signed up to the Equator Principles which demand “sound environmental management practices as a financing prerequisite.”

Work started in July 2003, with Italian bully-boys Impregilo (construction arm of Fiat, currently charged with corruption in Lesotho and ‘financial irregularities’ at home) and a terrifying squadron of Caterpillar bulldozers began to claw up and dynamite the fragile sub-arctic tundra. Reindeer, arctic foxes, other small animals and thousands of bird species that lived there fled in fear.

FROZEN ASSETS

All electricity produced at Karahnjukar is contracted to a massive Alcoa aluminium smelter (being built by Bechtel, due to be operational in 2007) which itself will pollute and ruin Reydarfjordur, a pristine eastern fjord. A Reykjavik court recently ruled that Alcoa’s planning permission for this monstrosity isn’t valid, but that probably won’t stop them as they immediately appealed to the – allegedly – rigged High Court.

Karahnjukar won’t benefit Icelanders at all: none of the electricity is destined for the national grid and cos there’s little unemployment in the region no Icelander’s gonna want a nice healthy job at the smelter thanks.

Yet the cost to the nation is enormous: independent experts say the economy is at risk (see IRN report), it has cost $1 billion so far and is likely to cost more – the electricity for Alcoa is for a price linked to the changing prices of Aluminium on London Metal Market…in other words no guarantee it’ll ever make a profit.

The environment suffers more by the day. They’ve already blown part of Dimmugljufur – Iceland’s Grand Canyon – to smithereens, and if they fill up the reservoir (scheduled 2007), 65.5 square kilometres of pristine wilderness will be completely submerged. This land includes birthing grounds for the majority of Iceland’s reindeer and Ramsar ‘protected’ nesting sites for endangered species such as pink-footed geese, and Gyrfalcon. Sixty waterfalls will be lost as will a range of sediment ledges – judged completely unique in the world by scientists studying global warming – which record 10,000 years of geological and climate change. And this vast projected reservoir would extend right onto the glacier itself, which is breaking up because of global warming. Wouldn’t giant icebergs trucking up to the dam be a bit – er – dangerous? Yep. And it gets worse – the dam is being built over a seismic fault!

airial

Earthquake zone at Kárahnjúkar volcanoes
White lines = Ground rock cracks
Yellow lines = Erosion of sediments. Erosion is parallel
to cracks: Sediments are cracked, cracking is still active
.
In 2003, Landsvirkjun’s chief, Fridrik Sophusson, was asked what would happen if there was an earthquake under the dam. “It would burst,” he smiled calmly. “A catastrophic wall of water would annihilate everyone in Egilsstadir [the nearest town] and all the neighbouring farms would be swept away.” Icelandic Tsunami anyone? “It won’t happen,” he added smugly. Yet in August 2004 there were continuous earthquakes at Karahnjukar for several days.

Environmentalists also warned that silt residues left by changing water levels round the projected reservoir would dry to a fine dust which the wind would carry onto local farmland. This was dismissed, yet last summer silt left in the wake of unexpected surges in the newly diverted glacial river produced just such devastating dust storms.

But none of this makes any difference: while everyone else in the ‘developed world’ is busy dismantling dams, Iceland’s rulers just can’t get enough. There are plans to dam every major glacial river in the country. Rio Tinto Zinc are reportedly salivating over the chance to devastate the North of the country, while Alcan and Century (who’ve already got smelters near Reykjavik) are keen to expand their deathly shadow in the south.

Ironically, the government- via its tourist board – still invites visitors to enjoy the “unspoilt pure natural beauty” it’s hell-bent on destroying! So how do they get away with it? Well, Iceland has a tiny population (290,000) and power is concentrated in the hands of a few very wealthy families who control politics, industry and the media. Scientists, journalists, anyone who asks questions is swiftly discredited and then sacked.

But it’s not all bad news and you can even help. A really vigorous and up-for-it grass-roots environmental movement is emerging, determined to stop Icelandic nature being pimped to the highest bidder. It’s a David v. Goliath battle and the call is out for international support.

If you are up for peacefully showing your solidarity with some of the most fantastic nature on our planet, check out www.savingiceland.org and joining the protest camp summer 2005.

http://www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news487.htm

Also in pdf.

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