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Planned Construction in Highlands Could Increase Environmental Impact

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Planned Construction in Highlands Could Increase Environmental Impact

Camping at Landmannalaugar

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The planned construction of a service centre in the highlands of Iceland will be subject to an environmental assessment, RÚV reports. The service centre is to be located at Landmannalaugar, a site on the popular Laugavegur hiking route in the highlands of Iceland.

The Icelandic National Planning Agency has ruled that the plan will first be assessed to determine its environmental impact. The planned buildings are estimated to measure around 2,000 square metres (22,000 square feet). The construction plans include buildings, platforms, shelters, steps, bridges, swimming pools, campsites, and parking. All of the planned construction will be distributed over an area of 4,900 square metres (53,000 square feet).

According to the planning agency, although the goal of the service centre is to improve services in the area and reduce tourist impact, the construction entails considerable building in an otherwise undeveloped area. Current structures at the site only cover an area of roughly 500 square metres. Further development would change the appearance of the area. Furthermore, by providing additional accommodation, the development may even increase the impact of visitors.

The agency’s statement asserts that Landmannalaugar is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Icelandic highlands, and research in tourism has revealed that a new service centre is unlikely to solve existing problems. An opinion poll conducted in 2012 showed that one third of the area’s visitors felt there were too many tourists at the site. Demand in the area continues to grow, meaning it is likely similar struggles will be faced in other locations shortly.

The agency’s decision to carry out an environmental assessment can be appealed until March 21, 2018.

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