The preparation for the extension of the nature reserve Þjórsárver in the Icelandic central highlands is completed, including the state’s agreement with the respective municipalities. However, the approval of Minister for the Environment Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson is missing.
Þjórsárver. Photo: Páll Stefánsson/Iceland Review.
Sigurður was supposed to sign a nature protection agreement extending Þjórsárver on Friday but postponed the signing after remarks made by Landsvirkjun, the national power company, Morgunblaðið reports.
This is the second time that the signing is postponed. Sigurður’s predecessor, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, was planning to sign the agreement before the election in April but at that point the municipalities hadn’t completed their part of the agreement.
Landsvirkjun holds extensive power plant and water distribution interests in the area, including a proposed dam and water distribution plant in Norðlingaalda, Norðlingaöldulón and Norðlingaölduveita. The extension of the nature reserve would rule out the construction of Norðlingaölduveita.
Landsvirkjun had declared opposition to the terms of the nature protection agreement as suggested by the Environment Agency of Iceland but the company’s remarks were not taken into account. Landsvirkjun therefore reasons that the process was illegal.
“The only thing we ask is that when the government makes a decision it is informed of these viewpoints and that the work methods are in compliance with the law. We don’t think it is right that the minister makes such a big decision without having been informed about our statement, which seems to be the case in this instance,” commented CEO of Landsvirkjun Hörður Arnarson.
The board of the Association of Young Environmentalists encourages Sigurður not to back out of the nature protection agreement for the extension of the nature reserve in Þjórsárver, visir.is reports.
The board agrees with Landsvirkjun that Norðlingaölduveita is a very beneficial option for harnessing energy but reasons that the area is too valuable for submerging it in water.
Þjórsárver is unique on both a national and global scale and is protected according to international agreements. One third of the world’s pink-footed geese breed in the nature reserve. Part of the area has been under protection since 1981.
The association’s chair, Ólafur Heiðar Helgason, pointed out that a commission of professionals appointed to evaluate which areas were suited for energy harnessing and which areas should be protected placed Þjórsárver in the protection category.