Last update:
2019-08-11

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.


Description:

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
Name of conflict:Thjórsárver reservoir, Iceland
Country: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 :Dams and water distribution conflicts
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Electricity
Water
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.

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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 http://www.savingiceland.org/

IUCN, Birdlife International, Iceland Nature Conservation Association
Conflict and 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
Impacts of the project
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
Outcome
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 and 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]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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
Contributor:JMA
Last update11/08/2019
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