Q: I recently read the crime novel Blódberg (“Blood Rock”/Blutberg in German; 2005) by Aevar Örn Jósepsson, which, among other items, features opposing opinions about the dam and power plant at Kárahnjúkar in the eastern highlands.
How do Icelanders feel about the power plant today? Are there still protests or has this intervention with nature simply been accepted (sadly, it cannot be reversed)?
Sebastian Steiner, Bad Steben, Germany
A: As mentioned in Jósepsson’s novel, the dam at Kárahnjúkar was disputed at the time of the construction and protests took place in hope of changing the government’s plan of constructing a hydropower plant in the eastern highlands to power an aluminum smelter in Reydarfjördur.
Even after the dam was constructed protestors demanded the government avert its plans of flooding a vast area of land claiming the unused dam would not be wasted but serve as a monument for the unfinished project and as such attract tourists.
However, the project was carried through and the dam and power plant were taken into use in 2006. Even though the construction of both the dam and smelter are still disputed, environmentalists now focus on stopping other energy projects of a similar caliber.
Of course, there were always people in Iceland who favored the Kárahnjúkar dam, support other power plant constructions and marvel at the largest dam and hydropower plant in Iceland’s history, which are generally accepted as an engineering masterpiece.
Today, Kárahnjúkar is frequented by tourists to a greater extent than while it was untouched wilderness, I think it’s safe to say. While some of those who opposed it in the beginning have now come to accept it, it largely remains a controversy.