Development in Highlands Could Have Negative Impact, Says Planning Agency

Kerlingarfjöll mountains.

Building additional infrastructure and lodging facilities at Kerlingarfjöll mountains in the Southern Highlands would have a negative impact on the current planning policy for the area, RÚV reports. This is stated by the National Planning Agency in its assessment of four different plans for infrastructure development at the popular tourist site. The Agency expressed its belief that further development would place environmental strain on the area and could have significant negative impacts.

Kerlingarfjöll was recently placed on the Environment Agency’s Red List of natural areas at considerable risk. It is not officially designated as a protected area. The company Fannborg, which operates tourism in the area, proposed four different options for infrastructure development at Kerlingarfjöll to the National Planning Agency. While the first option focuses on improving existing structures in the area, the other three involve additional construction and development. The third and fourth options, in particular, would increase the amount of lodging to accommodate nearly 300 guests and make the area one of the largest accommodation establishments outside of the capital area.

The Planning Agency considers the third and fourth options to both negatively impact visitors’ experience of nature in the area, as well as put additional strain the environment by increasing the number of visitors. While option two involves a minimal increase in accommodations for visitors, it is considered to have a minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Wetlands Reclaimed Outside Reykjavík to Fight Climate Change

wetland

An area of wetland the size of 100 football fields will be reclaimed in Úlfarsdalur valley in the next few years, RÚV reports. By filling in ditches that were dug to drain the land, the area will be turned into a carbon sink, reducing emissions equivalent to what 150 cars would produce in a year. Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson broke ground on the project himself this Sunday.

The area to be restored lies to the north of Úlfarsá river, near the town of Mosfellsbær in the Capital Area. “We are filling in ditches, removing fences and garbage, shaping the land, and along the way actually creating an outdoor area for residents and other visitors,” Dagur stated. “So we are both achieving climate goals and creating a fun environment.”

The first phase of the project is expected to cost ISK 20 million ($165,000/€157,000), while the total cost of the restoration is projected at ISK 150 million ($1.2m/€1.1m). Restoring wetland in about three quarters of the area, or 65 hectares, is expected to bind around 400 tonnes of carbon per year. The total restored area cover 87 hectares.

Request Protected Status for Hand-Knitted Icelandic Sweaters

lopapeysa Icelandic sweater

A group of Icelandic sweater producers hopes to legally protect the product name “Icelandic sweater” (Icelandic: íslensk lopapeysa). The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority has received a request from a group of traditional lopapeysa manufacturers to protect the term with a designation of origin. This means that sweaters with the traditional decorative pattern could only be labelled “Icelandic sweater” if they are knitted by hand in Iceland using Icelandic wool.

Designation of origin

In December 2014, the Icelandic parliament enacted the Product Names Protection Act, which allows for the protection of product names on the basis of origin, territory, or traditional uniqueness. Such laws, often manifested as Designation of Origin, are widespread in Europe, where they are often applied to artisanal products such as French cheese and Spanish ham. The first product name to receive such protection in Iceland was “Icelandic lamb,” which was protected last year.

The proposal suggest that an increased demand for Icelandic sweaters has led to widespread production of the traditional design with its decorative collar. “Increased foreign production of ‘lopapeysa’ sweaters made of foreign wool or synthetics also makes it urgent that buyers have the possibility to differentiate between ‘Icelandic sweaters’ and imitations,” states the proposal. Any opponents of the proposal are invited to submit comments by email via [email protected] by June 29, 2019.

Data Protection Authority Denies Klaustur MPs Request

Klaustur Bar

The Board of the Data Protection Authority has denied the request of four Centre Party MPs for further data collection connected to the so-called Klaustur Scandal, RÚV reports. The MPs’ lawyer had requested, among other things, information on payments made to Bára Halldórsdóttir’s bank account. The four MPs were among a group of six whom Bára recorded making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at Klaustur Bar in Reykjavík in late November.

In Focus: The Klaustur Scandal

The ruling states that the Data Protection Authority does not consider itself authorised to gather information from financial institutions and communications companies for cases which do not concern the companies themselves. The Authority considers there to be enough information available to make a final ruling in the case.

The Authority’s ruling also states that the MPs’ lawyer believes Bára’s recording was premeditated and executed with one or more accomplices. Bára’s lawyers have denied such claims and requested the Data Protection Authority drop the case, as it pertains to freedom of speech and privacy and should be ruled on in court.

Nearly 800 Receive Unemployment Benefits

WOW air

Around 760 former WOW air employees will receive unemployment benefits in May, RÚV reports. Unnur Sverrisdóttir, director of the Directorate of Labour, says the number is lower than originally anticipated. Around 1,100 WOW employees were laid offwhen the company went bankrupt at the end of March. WOW’s cease of operations also led to hundreds more layoffs in other companies.

The Directorate of Labour put together a special team to deal with the mass layoff, which was the largest in Icelandic history. The government also announced additional funding for the institution as a result fo the situation. Unnur says, however, that fewer people have contacted the Directorate of Labour for assistance than expected. “Maybe some could go straight into other jobs,” she stated. “Some were on parental leave and around 50 were studying, but they’re fewer than we expected.”

The Directorate predicts that unemployment will rise by 0.5% in the next monthly report. It was 2.9% in March, and will therefore stand at 3.4% in April if the prediction holds.