Sigur Ros, Karahnjukar and the Alta River

We all hate it when beautiful, untouched waters are ruined by hydroelectric powerplants. But too few of us try to do something to prevent it.

The other day, I stumbled upon this video from 2007 featuring the great Icelandic rock band Sigur Ros. Protesting against the building of an enormous dam project called the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant, Sigur Ros did a beautiful acoustic performance in the mountain valley that would later be totally drowned. 

Check it out:

It might seem like Sigur Ros protested to no avail. The Karahnjukar powerplant was built, creating the largest dam of its kind in Europe and destroying a huge, pristine wilderness area, along with two beautiful mountain rivers: Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal. While thinking about this makes me really sad, I still find some comfort in the fact that some people are at least trying to do something. And more importantly, I also believe that actions like this can actually make a difference by making it harder for the developers to get their will in the future.

The Alta Uprising in Norway (1979-1982) is a good example of this. Despite fierce and sometimes violent protests by environmentalists, fishermen, the Sami people (the indigenous people of the area) and many others, the Norwegian government decided to go through with their plans, and built a huge dam and powerplant in one of the very best salmon rivers in the world, the legendary Alta river.

However, the protests had two very important consequences:

1) The project ended up a lot smaller than originally planned, effectively saving the salmon population, which is doing just fine at the moment – the Alta river still holds the largest Salmo Salar in the world. The original version of the project would have been devastating for the river´s unique salmon population.

2) After the Alta Uprising, large-scale hydro power became a highly controversial issue among Norwegian voters, and thus politically impossible. The Alta project became the last big river powerplant built in Norway to date.

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