“A delicate balance in the highlands” reads the title of Morgunbladid’s editorial on Sunday.
Morgunbladid observes that it is forecast that the number of tourists in Iceland could treble within the next fifteen years.
“Such a development is, of course, beneficial from the point of view of the tourist industry, but if it is not to have an adverse effect on Icelandic environment and society – and even the tourist industry itself in the long term – many things must be taken into consideration,” writes Morgunbladid.
Morgunbladid refers to its reports last Thursday of a convention held by the Tourist Industry Association about the area in the vicinity of Landmannalaugar. Morgunbladid says “because of [an increased number of] tourists, conditions at Landmannalaugar keep deteriorating, and it presents an example of how things could go if tourism in the highlands is not developed with great care.”
Morgunbladid cites a study by Anna Dóra Saethorsdottir which finds that some tourists have started avoiding Landmannalaugar because of conditions there.
Morgunbladid discusses plans proposed by Karl Ingólfsson for improving conditions at Landmannalaugar, for example, by moving huts and parking areas further away from the hot springs which are the central feature of Landmannalaugar. Morgunbladid quotes Anna Dóra saying that the tourist industry must develop a comprehensive plan for which areas of the highlands should be developed and how. She says that she favors developing peripheral areas, such as Thjórsárdalur, Bárdardalur and Lón, and using them as points of access for the highlands themselves. Her argument is that the main highland should be left undeveloped in order to “preserve the environment to the fullest extent possible”, and, at the same time, an industry could be built in the surrounding regions.
Morgunbladid concludes its editorial with the following words:
“It is the unspoilt nature of Iceland that is the main selling point of those who which to attract tourists to Iceland. But if people wish to build [regular] roads in the highlands, and erect service centers with kiosks and petrol stations and claim large swathes of land for parking areas and combi-trailers to serve the traveling masses, then there will be little left of pristine land. Then we will have destroyed the goods we are selling and the inheritance of future generations. Iceland will then suffer the same destiny as other areas which have succumbed to mass-tourism.”
“Icelandic nature is delicate, and it must be treated accordingly. In the highlands we must preserve the delicate balance of enabling as many as possible to enjoy them without destroying what the treasure the Almighty as entrusted us with.”