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Vindelälven hydel project, Sweden

Successful movement against a dam. The site has become a protected area, also a Ramsar area.


Vindelälven (The Vindel River) is a 453 km long river running through the province of Västerbotten in Sweden (2). It is one of the most biodiverse areas in the northern part of Sweden thanks to the variation in topography, bedrock and soil, as well as agricultural practices (2).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Vindelälven hydel project, Sweden
State or province:Västerbotten (Province)
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Water

Project Details and Actors
Project details

The combined kWh per year for the entire Vindelälven hydro power project was estimated to 2,8 billion (1).

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:850
Start of the conflict:1963
End of the conflict:1993
Company names or state enterprises:Vattenfall from Sweden
NUON from Netherlands
Relevant government actors:Vattenfall
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Vindelådalens aktionsgrupp, founded on the first of June in 1969. The action group was founded as a result of years of informal communication along the river between people who thought that the river has to be saved. There is no webpage, the group no longer exists., Today the EJO Älvräddarna (, founded in 1974, works for protecting Swedish rivers.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Refusal of compensation: When representatives from Vattenfall organised a meeting with the people of Adolfström (one of the villages that would be under water if the project was realized) to offer them compensation, everybody walked out of the room as the representative started speaking, to show their refusal of compensation.

The action group Vindelådalens aktionsgrupp conducted a survey, asking landowners that would be affected by the project if they were for or against the exploitation of the river. The results showed that the proponents only were a slightly higher number than the opponents - shedding light on the actual views of the public. (1)
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Project cancelled
The project plan was abandoned thanks to local resistance and media attention. The viability of the project was also questioned which contributed to it not being conducted.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The plan to exploit the Vindel river was abandoned thanks to organised resistance and protests. The river is now protected as a National River in Sweden. There are many Natura 2000 areas on and around the river as well as Ramsar areas. The river has been suggested to become a Ramsar area in its entirety and is also a candidate for the world heritage list of UNESCO (1).
The Vindel River has been given an icon status among Swedish waters and the conflict marked the beginning of the end of the era of extensive hydro power exploitation in Sweden. (1)
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Natura 2000,
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[click to view]

Vattenlagen (1983:291), Sweden’s water law:
[click to view]

The EU water framework directive,
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(1)Västerbotten Magazine, Issue 2, 2008, Special issue on the Vindel river,
[click to view]

(2)Speech by Christer Borg (from the EJO Älvräddarna – The River Rescuers) on the National River Day, 2013-08-17, Renforsen, Vindeln, Sweden,
[click to view]

Other documents

[click to view]

Other comments:The start-date of the conflict as written here is the date where the present inhabitants of Adolfström, a village that would end up under water if the project was realised, simultaneously left a public meeting where Vattenfall would offer compensation. This day became symbolic for the struggle to save the Vindel River.
Meta information
Contributor:Linda Dubec
Last update21/02/2020
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