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Sh*t Happens in Mývatn

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Sh*t Happens in Mývatn

Lake Mývatn.

From Mývatn lake. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

According to the CEO of Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, hotel owners who profit from their proximity to Mývatn lake, North Iceland, are allowed to profit at the cost of the lake without the intervention of institutions whose role it is to protect the lake’s surroundings.

This was the topic of the news analysis program Kastljós last night. As the stream of tourists increases, the lake’s unique biosphere is being threatened, not least because monitoring of compliance to sewer regulations is very lax.

So unique is the Mývatn area that it is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The lake has been protected by law since 1974. Strict rules were set in 2012 regarding sewage systems in the area, requiring three-stage systems. Since 2012, more than 100 hotel rooms have been added in the area.

Construction of an 80-room hotel in the land of Arnarvatn, within the Mývatn sanctuary began in the fall of 2013. Hótel Laxá was promoted as having a first-rate sewage system. Last summer, however, the sewage system was found to be malfunctioning.

Sel Hótel by Skútustaðir was nearly doubled in size in 2015, bringing the number of rooms to 60. The hotel was given an exemption from sewage requirements by Skútustaðahreppur district. It so happens that the the chairman of Skútustaðahreppur district Yngvi Ragnar Kristjánsson is also the owner of Sel Hótel.

CEO of Landvernd Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson told Kastljós:

“Sewage systems are in disrepair, and in that matter hotel owners carry a lot of responsibility, but we must look at what’s the responsibility of the Environment Agency of Iceland, which oversees this protected area. And there are no permits for hotels in the instances of Laxá and Sel. What about the responsibility of the Ministry for the Environment? So, Mývatn is not enjoying the benefit of the doubt. Hotel owners, however, are; they are profiting from the proximity to one of our largest natural pearls.”

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