Last update:
2020-01-31

Alta River Hydro Power Plant, Norway

A very violent conflict, the state of Norway against local Sami people and supporters. The dam was finally built. However, Norway was led to ratify Convention 169 of ILO.


Description:

In 1968, the Norwegian government produced plans for the construction of a hydroelectrical power station in Altaälven (Alta river). When the project, which included building a 110 m high dam that would put the entire Sami village Masi under water, reached the public, massive protests broke out and marked the beginning of a long complex conflict.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Alta River Hydro Power Plant, Norway
Country:Norway
State or province:Finnmark
Location of conflict:Alta
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Alta river conflict refers to a series of massive protests in Norway in the late 1970s and early 1980s concerning the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in the Alta river in Finnmark, Northern Norway. The dam that was built in the Sautso canyon is 110 meters high. The hydro power station produces approximately 655 GWh per year. The original plan was that it would produce 1,400 GWh per year but this changed in 1970 since the plan to flood the village of Masi was met with strong resistance.

Level of Investment:15,400,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:~350 (in the original plan to flood Masi village)
Start of the conflict:1970
Company names or state enterprises:Statkraft from Norway
Relevant government actors:Norwegian Ministry of the Environment, Norwegian water resources and electricity board
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Norske Samers Riksforbund (NSR), http://nsr.no/, Norske Reindriftsamers Landsforbund (NRL), http://www.nrl-nbr.no/, Alta municipality, http://www.alta.kommune.no/, Kautokeino municipality, http://www.kautokeino.kommune.no/, Folkeaksjonen mot utbygging av Alta/Kautokeino-vassdraget (1978-1982), The World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) (dissolved in 1996), The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), http://www.iitc.org/
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Pastoralists
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Sabotage
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil erosion
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Since the Norwegian government, despite the massive protests from Sami people, EJOs and others, carried out the plan to build the dam and power station in the Alta river, this might not be considered a success for environmental justice. On the other hand, however, thanks to the continuous strong protests, the rights of Sami people were brought up on the Norwegian national political agenda, leading to legislation that strenghtened the rights of Sami people in Norway. Much thanks to the conflict, Norway was also the first country to ratify ILOs convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal peoples, strenghtening the rights of the Sami people further. This was a "productive" conflict - one might say.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

ILO convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal peoples,
[click to view]

Finnmarkslagen,
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(5) Stein Dalland, 1983, The Alta Case: Learning from the Errors made in a Human Ecological Conflict in Norway, Geoforum, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 193-203.

(4) Svein S. Andersen and Atle Midttun, 1985, Conflict and local Mobilization: The Alta Hydropower Project, Acta Sociologica, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 317—335.

Åsmund Lindal and Helge Sunde, 1981, Alta bilder:

års kamp for Alta-Kautokeinovassdraget, Oslo: Pax

Robert Paine, 1982, Dam a river, damn a people? : Saami (Lapp) livelihood and the Alta/Kautokeino hydro-electric project and the Norwegian parliament, IWGIA Document 45,
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(1) Alta-saken, Store Norske Leksikon,
[click to view]

(2) Alta-konflikten, från civil olydnad till samisk terrorism, P3 Dokumentär, Sveriges Radio P3, (radio documentary)
[click to view]

Svart hånd, hvit snø., 1995, Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK), (radio documentary)
[click to view]

Ville bruke soldater i Alta-aksjon, 2006, Aftenposten,
[click to view]

(3) En timme ifrån militärt ingripande i Alta, Sveriges Radio,
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Linda Dubec
Last update31/01/2020
Comments
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