Iceland be damned

Dettifoss Waterfall in Iceland photographed in 2009 (© Wikimedia)

In the chilly highlands of Iceland, construction is under way. Roads are being made to serve a new hydro-electric power plant, which doesn’t yet exist. If it’s built, this will be about the largest hydro-power scheme possible on the island and will almost double the country’s output of electricity. It will feed its energy to a huge, foreign-owned factory, which will be built as the sole customer.

But environmentalists are contesting the project. They would rather see this area become a national park, developing the vast wilderness resource for eco-tourism rather than electricity production. Meanwhile, the authorities argue that this project will provide jobs and save the eastern population of Iceland. They say it will simply take advantage of a valuable national resource and make good profits.

But will the project actually make money? And why are the authorities so determined to go ahead? A debate is raging, but time is running out before contracts are signed and the deal is done. In the documentary ‘Iceland be Dammed’, Laura Durnford investigates.

Producer: Laura Durnford

Broadcast: February 28, 2003