Ministry Of Environment To Conditionally Close Eight Caves For Conservation — The Reykjavik Grapevine

Ministry Of Environment To Conditionally Close Eight Caves For Conservation

Published January 8, 2020

Inês Pereira
Photo by
Art Bicnick

A request emitted by The Minister of Environment mandates eight caves to be closed due to their fragile condition, RÚV reports. The reasoning for this decision focuses on the protection of the vegetation and the rock formations in the caves. However, these caves will still be accessible with a guide.

Last year, the Environment Ministry asked for suggestions from the Institute of Natural History on caves in need of protection by enclosure. “We received eight proposals,” says Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of the Environment. “The first project has already been assigned to the Environment Agency and begun before Christmas in order to protect these incredible natural artifacts.”

One of these proposals was a 2500-year-old cave discovered untouched in a geothermal area in the north of the country. Immediately, specialists suggested the closing of the cave to the general public, in order to protect the sensitive lava formations that makeup and surround the site. In addition, the cave was discovered when a road was built to connect a power plant to the main road. The power company decided to install signs alerting the existence of the cave, for safety reasons, but the Ministry of Environment considered that the signs could attract more people to the site and initiate a deterioration process. The authorities requested, successfully, for the power company to take them down.

This process is not unprecedented in Iceland; three other caves have also been closed. However, in the previous cases, the caves were shut by gates that don’t allow access at all, and that’s not the plan now. The closing of these eight caves are supposed to allow visitors but only accompanied by guides. “We will fund this from the money we already have. Probably from the infrastructure fund earmarked to fund construction in protected areas, so I believe in the success of this project,” says Guðmundur.

Back in May, RÚV reported on a cave in Hafnarfjörður that was vandalised by tourists. At the time, specialists stated that the visits should be controlled. In that site, dozens of stalactites had been broken and the vegetation destroyed. More precautions are being taken every year so that nature is maintained, while access to these natural gems is not completely denied.

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