Mar 14 2008

International Rivers Day – Saving Iceland and Sól á Sudurlandi join forces to free Thjórsá


This morning Saving Iceland built a small dam in front of Landsvirkjun’s office entrance so the workers had either to step over the dam to get inside or use a different entrance. With this peaceful demonstration Saving Iceland wanted to protest upcoming three dams that Landsvirkjun, the national energy company, hopes to build in lower Þjórsá river. At the same time SI sends support and solidarity to all the people fighting this destruction.

Today is the International Day of Action For Rivers celebrated for the 11th time all around the world but for the first time in Iceland. The day is supposed to bring attention to the necessity of rivers and that they run their original path without men’s alteration. Dams and reservoirs have huge impact on nature, habitat of animals and human beings that live by the rivers. Once the construction is finished it can never be taken back. 60% of the world´s large rivers are dammed, fragmenting ecosystems and depriving the land and sea of nutrition and fertility.

The 26th of February this year, Landsvirkjun signed a contract with Verne Holding about supplying energy to a upcoming database in the South West of Iceland. Landsvirkjun has announced that the energy will be coming from the Þjórsá dams if they will get permission for building them. The database needs 25MW per year and has the right to buy other 25 but the planned Þjórsá dams are supposed to create 260 MW.

For the people fighting for the protection of Þjórsá river, it does not matter to whom the energy is sold, it is the destruction of the river which is being fought against. No matter if the energy is sold to some high technology company instead of one more aluminium smelter; the river is going to be destroyed anyway.

Three days before the parliament elections in May 2007, three ministers gave Landsvirkjun the water rights of 93% of Þjórsá behind closed doors. This act was declared later that year to be completely illegal by the state accountant, so one of the ministers spoke out and announced his own lack of ethics. Yet, he is still a minister.
haaleitisstifla“This corruption and greed has to be stopped right now” says Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson from Saving Iceland. “It is unbearable to watch these authorities behave like this and even worse that the national energy company actually accepted this spoiled gift. It is impossible to just sit and watch and therefore we act.”

Landsvirkjun prides itself with talks about environmental energy and Friðrik Sophusson, the director of Landsvirkjun said that the Þjórsá dams would be both green and carbon-free. Hopefully most people will see through this endless greenwash of Landsvirkjun.

When a reservoir fills, the original vegetation starts to rot. The resulting methane gas escapes when the water streams through the turbines under pressure. As reservoirs’ water levels seasonally rise and fall, vegetation continues to grow and rot on fertile silty soil and on the reservoir surface, leading to continued emissions throughout the dams lifetime. A reservoir works like a large motor converting carbon into methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times stronger than CO2. These emissions are not recognised by the Kyoto protocol.

Recent studies suggest that glacial silt is one of the major nutrition sources for plankton, which absorbs large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. The heavy industry ‘Master-plan’ to dam Iceland’s 11 major glacial rivers results in a substantial decrease of nutritional material in the North Atlantic and thus contributes directly to global warming. See here

This endless talk about some kind of a green energy has gone way too far. Dams and reservoirs destroy the nature and the habitats of animals, both human and non-human. There is nothing ‘green’ about this destruction” says Snorri.

Saving Iceland declares full solidarity and support with all the people fighting against the destruction of Þjórsá river. Farmers in this fertile and beautiful region are being blackmailed, bribed and lied to by Landsvirkjun, who promise new roads, mobile phone reception and other benefits to farmers who turn a blind eye to the ruin of their homeland. The national energy company have also distorted findings by renowned geologist Páll Einarsson that show the area to be full of earthquake faults and very unstable for a dam, risking the lives of those who will live below it.

c3bejorsaAt 20:00 a group of locals from Þjórsá, and from the group Sól Á Suðurlandi gathered by Uriðafoss waterfall, which will be dried if the dam goes ahead, and has become the symbol of their struggle for the river. They read poems and enjoyed the clear night, twisting northern lights and the roar of the river through the snowy landscape.

We hope this can be our last action in the campaign to save Þjórsá but history tells us it is not. We will continue to work together with grassroots groups around Iceland to keep the wild glacial rivers that nourish this unique land free.

Long Live Þjórsá – No Compromise In Defense of Mother Earth!