Seyðisfjörður Houses to be Relocated After Mudslides

Nearly 20 apartments will be built in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, to replace some of the housing that was destroyed by mudslides at the end of last year. Local Council Head Björn Ingimarsson hopes the new apartments will be ready this autumn. Houses near the affected area that remain evacuated will be relocated to other parts of the town.

Fourteen houses were destroyed in mudslides that devastated Seyðisfjörður shortly before Christmas last year. In addition to family homes, many cultural artifacts were damaged by the mudslides. Some houses near the impacted area were evacuated permanently: new locations have been found for all of the houses within the town and they will eventually be relocated, Björn stated in a radio interview on RÚV this morning.

“These are houses we want to continue to use, as they have both cultural value and residential value,” Björn stated. The houses’ former residents, as well as those whose homes were destroyed in the mudslides, have all found new housing, either temporary or permanent. Other construction projects are on the horizon for the East Iceland town, including a tunnel that will connect it to Egilsstaðir: construction will begin next year. Björn says the locality hopes to use material from the tunnel to build up an industrial area by the harbour.

Located in a picturesque fjord, Seyðisfjörður is a town of nearly 700 residents and is where the Norræna ferry docks on its trips between Iceland and Scandinavia. Hundreds were displaced by the mudslides last year, which luckily did not cause any injuries or fatalities.

Iceland’s Forests Could Double in Size in the Next Two Decades

forestry forest tree

If Iceland sticks to its plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2040, it will double its forest cover in the next two decades, RÚV reports. Forests cover just 2% of the country’s surface area today. Hreinn Óskarsson of the Icelandic Forest Service says afforestation can be an emotional issue for Icelanders, who are attached to the landscape in its current form.

Forests currently cover around 2% of Iceland’s total surface area, equivalent to around half of the Reykjanes peninsula. Glaciers, in comparison, cover around 10%. When humans first settled permanently in Iceland in the 9th century, forests covered somewhere between 25-40% of the island, but most of them were cleared to make room for sheep and cattle, whose grazing prevented the forests from growing back. The Icelandic Forest Service (IFS) was founded in 1908 but it wasn’t until the 1950s that large-scale afforestation began in the country.

Read More: Bringing Back Iceland’s Forests

The forests planted in Iceland more than half a century ago are now producing usable wood, comparable in quality to wood imported from abroad. Earlier this month, a new 100-metre pedestrian (and horse) bridge across Iceland’s Þjórsá river was unveiled, built entirely from Icelandic timber. It is the first project of its kind. Trausti Jóhansson, a forest warden in South Iceland, stated he is proud that forestry has reached this point in Iceland. There is growing demand for Icelandic timber, according to Trausti, and more parties getting involved in production. “We’re always developing Icelandic timber further and further.”

Protesters Call to Dismantle Directorate of Immigration

“Out with the Directorate of Immigration!” This was the chant of protesters who gathered in Reykjavík’s Parliament Square yesterday and marched to the police station on Hverfisgata. The protest was organised in response to the arrest of two asylum seekers in the directorate’s offices last week that left one of the arrested men in hospital. The director of Solaris, an Icelandic aid organisation for refugees and asylum seekers, says the sooner the directorate is dismantled, the better.

“These protests come in the wake of the events we witnessed this past week, when two applicants for international protection are lured to the premises of the Directorate of Immigration on false pretences, where they are deprived of their liberty and subjected to great duress and violence and arrested and deported from the country without notice. These are actions that we have not witnessed before and a sign of increased severity on the part of the authorities towards refugees,” Sema Erla Serdar, Solaris’ director, told mbl.is.

Sema says protesters came together yesterday to show solidarity with refugees and send a message to Icelandic authorities that inhumane policy will not be tolerated. “We see it repeatedly and in fact always that the public’s stance towards refugees is very different from the government’s and there is usually a strong consensus to do better in that regard. I am convinced that the public does not support this policy that we are seeing.”

Read More: Directorate of Immigration Criticised for Withdrawing Support of Asylum Seekers

In Sema’s opinion, the Directorate of Immigration does more harm than good. It should be dismantled and reconstructed on a new foundation, with humanity and respect for people as its guiding principle. “There certainly needs to be some framework around refugee’s issues, whether that’s a special ministry or institution or something like that, that would then be part of the reconstruction. The Directorate of Immigration in its current form, which is certainly built on a dubious foundation, is simply obsolete, the directorate is doing more harm than good and it simply needs to be closed down, and the sooner the better.”

West Iceland’s First Pride Celebration Draws Crowds

LGBTQ hinsegin vesturland Borgarnes pride parade June 10 2021

Borgarnes, West Iceland was blanketed by rainbows – and crowds – last Saturday at the region’s first-ever pride celebrations. The event was one of the first projects of the region’s newly-minted LGBT+ association Hinsegin Vesturland. The organisers say they are overjoyed with the turnout and hope to change the discourse on LGBT+ issues in the Icelandic countryside.

The sister Guðrún Steinunn and Bjargey Anna Guðbrandsdóttir are among the finders of the association and organisers of the local pride festival. “This is so, so much bigger than we ever expected,” Bjargey told RÚV. “When [Guðrún] started talking about this idea a few years ago we imagined one float and walking with our family on the float. I don’t even know how many people are here, it’s wonderful.”

Alexander Aron Guðjónsson is another one of the event’s organisers. Asked about the importance of holding an LGBT+ festival in the countryside, he answered: “There is a slightly different rhetoric here in the countryside about LGBT+ people. So it’s very positive to do this in as many places as possible so that there is an open discussion about everything and everyone, everywhere.”

The West Iceland LGBT+ Association (Hinsegin Vesturland) was founded in February of this year. North Iceland and East Iceland also have regional LGBT+ associations. Samtökin ’78 is Iceland’s National Queer Organisation as was the first association of its kind in Iceland.