Published January 12, 2014
A statement from the Ministry for the Environment says that recent reporting on the Þjórsá river wetlands in the New York Times is “filled with inaccuracies”.
A travel piece that appeared in the New York Times last Friday had the following to say about Iceland’s Þjórsá river wetlands:
“The Icelandic government has spent decades protecting its glaciers, pools, ponds, lakes, marshes and permafrost mounds in the Thjorsarver Wetlands, part of the central highlands, which constitute some 40 percent of the entire country, mostly in the interior. But last year, the government announced plans to revoke those protections, allowing for the construction of hydropower plants (instead of glaciers and free-flowing rivers, imagine man-made reservoirs, dams, paved roads and power lines). “If they get into this area, there will be no way to stop them from destroying the wetlands completely,” said Arni Finnsson, the chairman of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association. More bad news looms: A law intending to further repeal conservation efforts has been put forward, so if you ever want to see Iceland in all of its famously raw natural beauty, go now.”
The Ministry for the Environment has in turn responded to the reporting, saying, “The article in question is full of inaccuracies regarding Þjórsárver and government plans on the protection and use of the area. It is reported, for example, that the wetlands reach over 40% of the country, when actually the Þjórsá reserve covers over 0.5% of the country today.”
The statement goes on to say that the ministry has no plans to revoke protections of the area, but on the contrary is seeking to expand the protected area. The ministry concludes that the New York Times’ reporting was therefore “contradictory and wrong.”
In point of fact, Minister for the Environment Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson has indeed said he will change the protected area – to allow the creation of a reservoir for electrical power.
He later backed up this decision by adding that if the commission overseeing development of natural resources in Iceland green-lights the reservoir, he would support it, even if it meant the destruction of several waterfalls further downstream.