Angler's paradise threatened by plans to dam Norway's last, great untouched river



Posted on 12 January 2005  | 
The endangered Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) — only 120 remain in Scandanavia, with some 50 left in Norway.
© WWF-Canon / François PierrelEnlarge
Gland, Oslo – Norway’s largest electricity company, Statkraft, is set to destroy the country's last, great unprotected river if plans to dam the Vefsna River are approved, according to WWF.
 
Statkraft plans to dam the Vefsna River and drill giant tunnels to drain it for hydropower development in northern Norway. According to WWF, the development poses a serious threat to wildlife and will have a negative impact on the lives of indigenous populations. 
 
The Vefsna is a paradise for anglers with its large populations of sea trout and inland trout, and is the second largest spawning area in Norway for the threatened wild Atlantic salmon.

The hydropower plant may also affect local populations of the endangered Arctic fox — only 120 remain in Scandanavia, with some 50 left in Norway — and endanger traditional Sami reindeer herding grounds. Furthermore, the drilling operations, which produce seven million cubic tonnes of rubble, would be dumped locally in pristine wilderness areas. 
 
“This hydropower project will suck the life out of the Vefsna, robbing it of almost all of its natural water flow in pristine sections of the river, with serious impacts on people and nature,” said Rasmus Hansson, head of WWF-Norway.

“The Norwegian government must say no to Statkraft and give greater protection to this mighty river.” 
 
On February 1st, the Norwegian parliament will decide on whether to protect the Vefsna. If protection is approved, the Norwegian part of the river will obtain the same status as the upstream Swedish part, which is protected under the EU Natura 2000 programme. If approved, Statkraft would not be able to go ahead with its hydropower project. 
 
WWF calls on Norway’s parliament to follow EU standards and protect the Vefsna River immediately. 
 
“Norway benefits from being a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), allowing Norwegian companies access to the EU internal market, yet it has a pick-and-choose policy when it comes to European environmental legislation,” says Rasmus Reinvang, WWF-Norway’s EEA advisor.

“Statfkraft and the Norwegian government should not be able to sell power to European countries while ignoring European environmental law.” 
 
WWF calls on Statkraft to drop its hydropower plans and make the switch to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. WWF believes that it is about time Norway understood that with its wealth comes responsibility to protect its nature.

A year ago, the Norwegian government failed in its attempt to open the biologically diverse Lofoten Islands to oil development, following an international campaign led by WWF. 

NOTES:

1. EU Natura 2000 programme conserves Europe’s most threatened and valuable nature. 
 
2. The Norwegian government’s own environmental specialists believe that the Vefsna should be protected and gave the river a top rating in a recent survey looking at the cultural, biological, fishing, and recreational value of  the country’s rivers. 
 
3. The economic potential of a protected Vefsna is estimated to be more than €7.5 million annually, supporting a wide range of local livelihoods. 
 
4. The Vefsna is the only river of the 14 described by the Nordic council as 'precious' and that is still unprotected. 

For further information:
Tor Traasdahl, Communications Advisor
WWF-Norway
Tel: +47 22 03 6513
E-Mail: ttraasdahl@wwf.no

Claire Doole, Head of Press
WWF International
Tel: +41 22 364 9550
E-Mail: cdoole@wwfint.org
The endangered Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) — only 120 remain in Scandanavia, with some 50 left in Norway.
© WWF-Canon / François Pierrel Enlarge

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