Alta River Hydro Power Plant, Norway


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
NameAlta River Hydro Power Plant, Norway
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
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe 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 (in USD)15,400,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population~350 (in the original plan to flood Masi village)
Company Names or State EnterprisesStatkraft from Norway
Relevant government actorsNorwegian Ministry of the Environment, Norwegian water resources and electricity board
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNorske Samers Riksforbund (NSR),, Norske Reindriftsamers Landsforbund (NRL),, Alta municipality,, Kautokeino municipality,, 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),
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationHunger strikes and self immolation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Property damage/arson
Land occupation
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Development of a network/collective action
Street protest/marches
Involvement of national and international NGOs
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-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.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 even further.
Sources and Materials

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ILO convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal peoples,
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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,
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(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.

(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.


(1) Alta-saken, Store Norske Leksikon,
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(2) Alta-konflikten, från civil olydnad till samisk terrorism, P3 Dokumentär, Sveriges Radio P3, (radio documentary)
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(3) En timme ifrån militärt ingripande i Alta, Sveriges Radio,
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Svart hånd, hvit snø., 1995, Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK), (radio documentary)
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Ville bruke soldater i Alta-aksjon, 2006, Aftenposten,
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Meta Information
ContributorLinda Dubec
Last update08/04/2014