On the evening of August 25, 1970, farmers in Suður-Þingeyjasýsla county in Northeast Iceland got together and blew up a dam in the river Laxá by Lake Mývatn.
The farmers had harshly protested the government’s plans to construct a hydropower plant in Laxá but their protests were ignored.
By taking matters into their owner hands—and resort to what has become known as Iceland’s only act of terrorism—the farmers managed to prevent the destruction of Laxá and Mývatn.
A total of 113 individuals claimed responsibility for the explosion and 65 were charged. Solidarity never failed and the ‘terrorists’ never revealed who set off the bomb.
The rebellion marked the beginning of nature protection in Iceland.
On January 20, 2013, the documentary Hvellur by director Grímur Hákonarson, featuring the blowing up of the Laxá dam, premiered in the community center Skjólbrekka by Lake Mývatn.
“This is maybe the biggest uprising in Icelandic history. And it’s remarkable too because it worked,” commented Grímur to RÚV.
Many of the documentary’s main characters attended the premiere, among them Hólmfríður Jónsdóttir. “I felt both nervous and excited before it started but it was very good to hear it and fun to reminisce about those events.”
Finnbogi Stefánsson added: “It naturally applies to the future because the young people must know what we experience and when building the future the past must be remembered. And now the next issue is coming up here, the Bjarnarflag power plant.”
This week local authorities, landowners, environmentalists and MPs have expressed their concern over the condition of Lagarfljót , a long and deep lake by Egilsstaðir in East Iceland, famous for its alleged lake monster Lagarfljótsormurinn.
The lake is also popular for trout fishing and known for its diverse birdlife. In 2001, Minister for the Environment Siv Friðleifsdóttir revoked a decision by the Icelandic National Planning Agency that the highland dam and power plant at Kárahnjúkar should not be built; otherwise the biosphere in Lagarfljót would be compromised.
The dam was built and glacial river Jökulsá á dal channeled into Lagarfljót. Glacial sediment clouds the lake, which affects the ability of algae to photosynthesize, hence, trout is disappearing from the lake.
The higher water level and higher temperature of the lake also causes erosion along its banks and islets inhabited by birds are gradually being eaten up.
Local authorities and landowners state this is a much severe development than what they had anticipated, while Landsvirkjun, the national power company, and the government of the time maintain the environmental impact on Lagarfljót had been known and that the lake’s biosphere was knowingly sacrificed. The changes are irreversible.
The Kárahnjúkar dam was highly controversial with protestors doing their best to convince authorities that the cost would be too high for the environment. But there voices of reason were ignored.
Some protestors chained themselves to heavy machinery but no one resorted to ‘terrorism’ as they did back in 1970.
Now, scientists warn that Laxá and Mývatn—the river is popular for salmon fishing and the lake unique for its birdlife and among of the country’s most visited tourist destinations—are at risk again with the planned geothermal power plant at Bjarnarflag.
Will it take another explosion before authorities are willing to listen?
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – email@example.com