Thjórsárver, Iceland


According to Saving Iceland, the Thjórsárver wetlands of central Iceland are a unique ecosystem. Located in Iceland’s interior, the wetlands stretch 120 square kilometres from the Hofsjökull glacier in the northern highlands to surrounding volcanic deserts and are characterized by remarkable biodiversity. A description on the World Wildlife Fund website points not only to the variance of the landscape itself—“tundra meadows intersected with numerous glacial and spring-fed streams, a large number of pools, ponds, lakes and marshes, and rare permafrost mounds”—but also to the area’s unique plant and birdlife. It is registered as a Ramsar site.

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Basic Data
NameThjórsárver, Iceland
ProvinceThjórsárver region, Icelandic Highlands
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe project which was to build one or more hydroelectric dams for the aluminium smelting industry in the canyon from the Hofsjökull glacier to the Thjorsa River. The plan has been rejected.

The wetlands cover 120km2, 37,500 ha of the total area has been declared a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Project Area (in hectares)12,000
Start Date1970
Company Names or State EnterprisesLandsvirkjun from Iceland
Relevant government actorsReykjavík City council (who then owned 45% of Landsvirkjun)
International and Financial InstitutionsRamsar convention
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSaving Iceland

IUCN, Birdlife International, Iceland Nature Conservation Association
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.It is a success for conservationism (Ramsar site, IUCN, the local Saving Iceland group) against the interest of the aluminium smelting multinational industry.
Sources and Materials

Hydropower Development in Iceland: Damage to habitats and species of European importance
[click to view]


Saving Iceland
[click to view]

Iceland Review - Possible enlargement of Thjórsárver reserve
[click to view]

Iceland review - Extension of Iceland Highland Reserve Postponed
[click to view]

Other Documents

Source: Saving Iceland
[click to view]

Meta Information
Last update08/09/2014