Last update:

Thjórsárver reservoir, Iceland

Hydroelectricity from Thjórsárver would have been used for the expansion of the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter at Straumsvik, Hafnafjordur. However, in 2007 a local referendum there ruled against the expansion.


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.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Thjórsárver reservoir, Iceland
State or province:Thjórsárver 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:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Aluminum/Bauxite
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The 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.

See more
Project area:12,000
Start of the conflict:1970
Company names or state enterprises:Landsvirkjun from Iceland
Relevant government actors:Reykjavík City council (who then owned 45% of Landsvirkjun)
International and Finance InstitutionsRamsar convention
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Saving Iceland
IUCN, Birdlife International, Iceland Nature Conservation Association
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation 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-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:It is a success for conservationism (Ramsar site, IUCN, the local Saving Iceland group) against the interest of the aluminium smelting multinational industry.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

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

Saving Iceland
[click to view]

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

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1527
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.