Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for April, 2013

Icelandic elections – return of the crash parties

The two parties widely held responsible for the bank crash in 2008 received the largest number of votes in yesterday’s elections. The two parties that had rescued Iceland from the financial crisis were rejected by Icelandic voters. So this probably will mean more large-scale industrial development and more environmental destruction for the building of new power plants.

The number of women in the new parliament (63 seats in total) has decreased by two and now stands at 39.7%. On the plus side, Icelanders discovered that anyone can stand for the Althingi and establish a new party if they get adequate support and go about it the right way, which meant that a whole 15 parties contested the election in at least one constituency. One activist succeeded in setting up his own party on the basis of helping home owners know their rights. The international Pirate Party got 3 people in, which was a first for them as it was the first time they had got in on a national scale. Another new party likens itself to the liberal European Green parties.

The new largest parties are not in favour of joining the EU although they may be forced to hold a referendum about whether or not to continue as most Icelanders want negotiations to continue and then vote in a referendum to make the final decision.

The final decision about who will work with whom in the ruling coalition will be made today or tomorrow. I will update this blog accordingly.

Article now published on adverse effects on lakes from power plants

At long last, my article for Inter Press Service has been published. Entitled Iceland Project Plays Dice With Nature, And Loses, it covers the situation on the Lagarfljot lake/river system in East Iceland after Karahnjukar power plant started operating, and also possible effects on the Ramsar site Lake Myvatn in the north of Iceland if the Bjarnaflag power plant is built.

Since I submitted the article, the Left-Green party, with environment minister Svandis Svavarsdottir in the forefront, have pushed for the development of another power plant in the region instead of Bjarnaflag in order to save the lake. The new nature conservation Act incorporates the Precautionary Principle – and Bjarnaflag is a shining example of a case in which the PP should be used.

Update on opinion polls for elections

New research has confirmed what I blogged about a few weeks ago on how opinion polls for elections say very little except, perhaps, for the last week or two preceding the elections. Now, statistician Svandís Nína Jónsdóttir says that 47% of Icelandic citizens decided what party to vote for during the week preceding the elections, and 28% made up their minds on the day itself. Women are said to be more cautious and are more likely than men to decide at the last minute – 51% compared to 44% for men.

So, yet again, take opinion polls with a pinch of salt.

Disastrous environmental consequences were foreseen

I submitted an article last week to Inter Press Service on the adverse environmental consequences that resulted when a glacial river was diverted into a lake system as part of the Karahnjukar power plant development in East Iceland. Originally I was going to wait until the article was published, but as that might be a while yet I’ll write this post in the meantime.

The fiasco shows the importance of the Precautionary Principle, whereby Nature is given the benefit of the doubt in cases in which some of the consequences are not known. But in this case, in fact, many of the adverse environmental impacts were actually identified beforehand, but Siv Fridleifsdottir, who was Environment minister at the time, decided to ignore the warnings. When Siv was minister, the government was right-wing and gung-ho all sorts of heavy industrial projects. So now the river/lake system is full of silt and sediment, its plant biota has decreased significantly as the water is too murky for the plants to photosynthesise, and the fish populations have decreased dramatically in what had previously been a good fishing environment. In addition, the birdlife has been affected in some places, the river banks have become eroded and the river water has flooded agricultural land in some places.

Concerns have now arisen as to whether the ecology of lake Myvatn will be affected if/when a geothermal power plant is developed just a few kilometres from the lake. Some people – including the current Environment minister Svandis Svavarsdottir – want a new environmental impact assessment carried out as new research has brought various things to light since the existing EIA was carried out for the plant 10 years ago. To me, the link between these two developments is clear in terms of insufficient evidence being available on the effects of the power plants on the environment.

On the plus side, new comprehensive legislation on environmental matters was passed last week in the closing minutes of the last parliamentary session. Although I cannot remember all the details about the legislation, I seem to remember it will eliminate some loopholes in existing legislation. Let’s hope so.