May 22 2007
1 Comment

Rising Ecocide: Nests Swallowed by Water at Kárahnjúkar


The surface of Hálslón, the reservoir by Kárahnjúkar dams in Iceland’s eastern highlands, is constantly rising, swallowing nests and eggs laid by geese. The area is the nesting ground for greylag geese amongst numerous other species of rare and endangered birds. At least 500 greylag nests are thought to be at risk.

According to newspaper Morgunbladid, the birds have not yet realized the changes of their summer habitat, which happened when the glacial river Jökulsá á Dal was blocked last autumn to create Kárahnjúkar dam and Hálslón reservoir. This is to provide energy for an ALCOA owned aluminium smelter in nearby fjord, Reydarfjördur.

A protected area, Kringilsárrani, is also being partly drowned and devastated in full by the project. It is the calving ground of a third of Iceland’s reindeer population, which will be displaced.

The Kárahnjúkar area is the most densely vegetated area north of Vatnajökull, the world’s largest non-arctic glacier. Sixty major waterfalls are being destroyed and innumerable unique geological formations drowned, along with the just recently discovered ancient ruins of Reykjasel, about the most important archaeological find in Icelandic history.

The Kárhnjúkar project entails blocking the silt emissions of two massive glacial rivers, Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal. This will result in the receding of the combined delta of the two rivers. This will destroy a unique nature habitat in the delta and cause the loss of one of Iceland’s major seal colonies.


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.

Campos Novos, a dam in Brazil of similar design, cracked in June 2006. Yet, Campos Novos was built on stable ground. Leading Icelandic geologists to consider the Kárahnjúkar dams a major threat to the local population.

The project was opposed by the Icelandic National Planning Agency due to too much irreversible environmental impact and insufficient evidence for the economic benefits of the project. The verdict of the NPA was overruled by the Minister of the Environment, Siv Fridleifsdóttir.

It is typical for the dishonest methods of the National Power Company (Landsvirkjun) that they pretend that the EIA they present on their Kárahnjúkar website is anything other than their own slanted PR job. You can read the real thing here: ‘Conclusion of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Kárahnjúkar Project’
The Icelandic National Planning Agency

It is expected that the inundation will be complete in the autumn of 2007. The water levels of the reservoir will fluctuate and the dry dusty silt banks will cause dust storms that will affect the vegetation of over 3000 sq km. It has been estimated that the reservoir will silt up in as little as 40-80 years, leaving a desert where there was one of the most biologically diverse regions of the Icelandic highlands.

So much for the claims of Landsvirkjun and ALCOA that this provides “renewable” and “sustainable” energy!

submerged vegetation

ALCOA are adding insult to injury by demanding another smelter in the north of Iceland. This would entail the destruction of numerous geothermal fields and several major glacial rivers in the north.

ALCOA may think that they will get away with this vandalising of the Icelandic environment and that they can force their presence upon Iceland, against the will of half the nation. They are wrong.

ALCOA are not likely to be forgiven for Kárahnjúkar. Through this project ALCOA have gained many new enemies, both Icelandic and international. In due time these are sure to make ALCOA pay a heavy price for this ecocide.

Beautiful slideshow of the Jokulsa a Bru in all its living wonder, Kárahnjúkar and Töfrafoss in August 2006, just before the inundation. Photos by Christopher Lund. Music by Damien Rice.

For the ecological impact of hydropower reservoirs and glacial rivers see the following articles:

‘Hydropower Disaster for Global Warming’ by Jaap Krater

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

Hydroelectric Power’s Dirty Secret Revealed

For other articles about the environmental impact of the Kárahnjúkar dams see ‘Destroyed Areas’

Campos Novos CU

Campos Novos

One Response to “Rising Ecocide: Nests Swallowed by Water at Kárahnjúkar”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Now you try to pretend that we are still only fighting the dams at Kárahnjúkar and that we are fighting a lost battle.

    But what about all the numerous other places in Iceland that are already being destroyed or equally threatened by foreign heavy industry?

    Do any of these names of glacial rivers and lakes ring a bell in your memory?

    Jökulsá Vestari
    Jökulsá Austari
    Jökulsá á Fjöllum
    Jökulsá í Fljótsdal

    Only to mention some of the endangered rivers and lakes.

    Or have you ever heard of the following geothermal fields?

    Torfajökuls area
    Hengill area

    Just to mention a few of the endangered geothermal fields, in fact there about twenty of them that are endangered by heavy industry.

    Do you really think it is too late to save all of these places?

    You are Icelandic and yet you pretend you are not aware of any of these projects and places! Well, I am Icelandic and I know these places have existed as long as the island has. Perhaps this is just because I don’t suffer from convenient voluntary amnesia.

    And by the way, in your propaganda you often maintain that we started too late to protest against the destruction of Kárahnjúkar. This just isn’t true. We started protesting as soon as the project was announced. Saving Iceland joined the fight in 2004. Protests started long before that. But the government suppressed vital geological and economic reports at the time that the parliament voted on Kárahnjúkar and just drove the project through with no regard to reason and cautions. The government broke the law left right and centre in the decision proces for the dams at Kárahnjúkar. So the statement that the dams at Káráhnjúkar are raised ond lies and abuse of power is sadly very much true. One can only hope hat some day those responsible for this will have to answer for their corruption in court.

    It is very sad how the heavy industry debate in Iceland seems so marred by these endless unsubstantiated counter arguments against reasoned evidence. It just goes to show that the heavy industry lobby has no argument left but the same clichés over and over again. In Icelandic it is called “Rökþrot”. This very much applies to the false claims that hydro and geothermal energy are “green”, “sustainable” and “renevable”. This website is full of evidence that all these claims are nothing but greenwash and lies.

    But what the heavy industry lobby have is an abundance of money to spread and maintain their lies and abuse of power with a total lack of respect for truth and democracy.

    But we have the truth on our side and a determination to drive these corrupting and poisoning corporations out of this country. We shall not rest until the aluminum industry leaves Iceland.