Ásdís Hlökk Theodórsdóttir, a former employee of the Icelandic National Planning Agency, has said that she is not at all surprised what a significant negative impact the Kárahnjúkar dam and power plant has had on the ecosystem in and around Lagarfljót, one of Iceland’s largest lakes. Moreover, she’s surprised that others are surprised, RÚV reports.
“News of the significant impact of the power station comes as no surprise,” she said. “Significant affect on the Lagarfljót ecosystem was known to be the case at the time of construction and was included in the report made by the National Planning Agency.”
The National Planning Agency, the state authority responsible for the administration, monitoring and implementation of the Planning and Building Act, the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (EIA) and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Act (SEA); was not able to predict the precise degree of impact that the power plant would have on the surrounding ecosystem, however they were aware that it would be significant.
Regardless of the detrimental impact that sediment from the holding basin of the Kárahnjúkar power plant has had on the lake, Siv Friðleifsdóttir, former Minister of the Environment for the Progressive Party, has stated that the decision to build the massive damn and power plant was the right decision.
The National Planning Agency had been reserved about moving forward with the construction of the Kárahnjúkar dam project, which began in 2002, reporting that “Kárahnjúkar would result in significant environmental impacts and other consequences of the proposed development plans will have significant, irreversible, negative environmental impacts that are foreseeable.” It continued that the impact would be “specific to Hálslón and introduce sediment to Fljótsdalur and Lagarfljót. The first phase of construction will disturb species that are rare both locally and at a national level, and it will permanently change the condition of the ecosystem and the waters.”
However Siv pushed through the project’s approval.
“We looked at the report and realised the impact very clearly at the time,” said Siv. “We decided to allow the project to proceed on the basis of conditions that would mitigate the impact… We didn’t think the impact would be so great that it would overshadow the benefits of the project.”
The result of the construction of the Kárahnjúkar dam, Landsvrkjun-run power plant, and Alcoa-owned smelter has been the widespread deterioration of the Lagarfljót ecosystem and the loss of an estimated 80% of the trout population that had once flourished in the lake and its tributaries.
When asked by RÚV if news of the scale of the negative impact has changed her mind about pushing forward with the project being the right decision Siv replied “I believe this was the right decision.”
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