Progressive Party MP Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson will not sign off on a proposal outlining increased environmental protection of Þjórsárver.
Sigurður Ingi, who acts as Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, told reporters early this morning that he has received complaints from municipalities and a businessman about the scheduled increased environmental protection of the area, located between Hofsjökull and Sprengisandur, in central Iceland, RÚV reports.
Þjórsárver is an integral nesting spot for a large proportion of the world’s goose population, and has been protected by both the Environment Agency of Iceland and the Ramsar Convention since 1981. The Nature Conservation Strategy 2009 – 2013 calls for the originally protected 375 square kilometres to be extended to 1,563 square kilometres.
Landsvirkjun, the largest energy producer in Iceland, has been wanting for some time to dam the Þjórsárver area to build a reservoir to collect water during the winter. This would mean the loss of all vegetation due to it being submerged and the destruction of waterfalls along the Þjórsá river caused by decreased flow.
The last Progressive Party Minister of the Environment, Siv Friðleifsdóttir, is responsible for pushing through Landsvirkjun’s building of the Kárahnjúkar dam in East Iceland despite the Environmental Impact Assessment of the project concluding that the dam would have a significant negative environmental impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
“We looked at the report and realised the impact very clearly at the time,” said Siv in March 2013. “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 in March 2013 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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