The unique wilderness area around Europe's largest glacier, the Vatnajoekul Glacier, is threatened by a hydropower project currently being planned for Eastern Iceland. This project aims to dam two of the three main rivers that flow from the glacier.
One of the largest dam projects ever planned in Europe, it should deliver 700 MW for an aluminium smelter nearby to be built by Norsk Hydro, with an annual output of 420,000 tons of aluminium.
"The dams will never be built without a buyer for the project's electrical power. This buyer is Norsk Hydro's planned aluminium smelter," said Arni Finnson, Chairman of WWF's partner organization in Iceland, INCA - Iceland's Nature Conservation Association. "This means that the company will be partly responsible for destroying the unique wilderness area around Vatnajoekul."
INCA believes that there is another, better way to develop the eastern region of the island. It is calling for the area to be protected and given the status of a National Park.
This would enable a strengthening of the local tourism industry and would boost the image of Iceland as a natural wonder.
While the Icelandic environment minister Siv Fridleiffsdottir did declare recently that she was in favour of a national park in parts of the wilderness area she has not excluded the hydropower development.
WWF is now asking the Norwegian Government to use its majority stake (43% shares) in Norsk Hydro to veto the development plans in Iceland, and thus avoid drawing Norway into an internal Icelandic conflict.
It would also add value to the New Year statement of Norway's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg that "the value of unspoiled nature is increasing" and "the era of large hydro-power developments is over".
For comments and further information:
Arni Finnson, chairman of Iceland Nature Conservation Association INCA, mobile: + 354-897 2437, phone/fax:+ 354-551 2279, h: +354-561 3679
Samantha Smith, Policy Officer WWF International Arctic Programme, phone: +47 22 03 65 22, mobile: +47 45 02 21 49
Rasmus Hansson, Secretary General, WWF Norway, phone: +47 22 03 65 14, mobile: +47 90 68 63 13