Norsk Hydro may withdraw from controversial hydro power project | WWF

Norsk Hydro may withdraw from controversial hydro power project

Posted on 20 March 2002    
According to press reports in Iceland, the Norwegian multinational Norsk Hydro has informed the Icelandic government that it wants to postpone the construction of a huge aluminium smelter capable of processing 420 thousand tonnes of aluminium per year. Norsk Hydro has not confirmed this report, but neither has the company denied it. The postponement would probably affect plans by the Icelandic government to build the 700 megawatt Karahnukar Hydro Power Plant, which would be used to provide energy to the smelter.

If built, the Karahnukar Hydro Power Plant will be the largest hydro power facility in Iceland, and indeed the largest that it is possible to build in Iceland. It will also be one of the biggest in Europe, damming two major glacial rivers and tributaries and redirecting their courses through 78km of underground tunnels. The largest of the reservoirs will be 57km2 with a water-level fluctuation of up to 75m.

The environmental damage caused by the project will be far greater than that caused by any previous comparable project in Iceland. The direct impact area covers some 1000km2 in the highlands north of the Vatnajoekull Glacier, one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Western Europe. Construction of not only the dams, but also ditches and channels, diversions, reservoirs, and roads will affect or destroy rare oases of highland vegetation that are characterized by dense and diverse plant species.

"WWF demands that Norsk Hydro withdraw from this damaging project," says Rasmus Hansson, CEO of WWF-Norway. "If Norsk Hydro wants to promote itself as an environmentally aware company, that's fine � but then it shouldn't participate in a project like this, which will have devastating consequences for the Icelandic environment. Norsk Hydro should use this opportunity to withdraw from the project altogether."

For more information:
Arni Finnsson
Iceland Nature Conservation Association

Samantha Smith
WWF International Arctic Programme

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