Four nature conservation associations have brought charges against the development permit the municipal government of Árneshreppur issued for the first phase of the Hvalárvirkjun power plant in the Westfjords. Icelandic environment association, Iceland Nature Conservation Association, Young Environmentalist Association and Rjúkandi demand that construction will be halted until the Environment and Natural Resources Complaints Committee has reviewed the case.
The development permit, issued June 12th, allows road construction to and around the area, a bridge over Hvalá river, building work camps and drainage systems, as well as geological research.
Auður Magnúsdóttir director of Landvernd told RÚV that there are several reasons for the complaints, for instance that issuing a permit for this first phase of construction, ostensibly for research purposes, is an illegal way to go about obtaining a permit for the entirety of the project. “We don’t think it’s legal to split planning like that, the powerplant is receiving its permit in bits and pieces.” Additionally, even though this first phase only allows preliminary construction, they will disturb the wilderness. Auður continues, “We also think nature conservation laws are being broken. Material for roads will be taken from a lake that’s protected under the nature conservation laws. The unspoilt wilderness will be disturbed by road construction. According to the permit, roads will be built so they can research the area but it’s completely clear that this kind of research does not require roads. So, they’re disturbing the area in the name of research even though it isn’t necessary. Really, they’re starting work on the powerplant and building roads they need for it.” Auður rejects the notion that powerplant development only concerns the people who live in the area. “Of course it matters to us. The unspoilt wilderness up there, the waterfalls and the lakes concern all of us. It’s an incredibly beautiful area, particularly precious and unique, at least in Europe and quite possibly the world.”
The complainants demand that development will cease while the complaints committee reviews the case. Auður stated, “Even if they only do a little, the disturbance can be irreversible.”
Last month, landowners of the nearby Drangavík also issued charges against the development permit as well as the land use plan for the area.