The Lake Mývatn and Laxá river ecosystem is one of Iceland’s main natural treasures. In 1977 the area became the first in Iceland to be placed on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands list. In the sixties and seventies, locals managed to prevent Laxá river from being harnessed but now the proposed construction of a power plant in the Bjarnarflag geothermal area threatens the ecological character of the Mývatn-Laxá ecosystem and the health of local people. Environmental problems relate to pollution from plant operations, including waste water run-off, changes in temperature of groundwater inflow into the lake, and airborne hydrogen sulfide.

Landvernd has put a lot of effort into the process of protecting Lake Mývatn and Laxá river and it has managed to draw a lot of attention to the matter from Iceland’s governmental system, the media and the public.

Landvernd sent a complaint to the Ramsar Secretariat

In September 2012, Landsvirkjun (the National Energy Company) started preparatory work on the proposed Bjarnarflag power plant. Landvernd immediately protested. The association, and BirdLife Iceland, sent a complaint to the Ramsar Secretariat requesting the bureau to have Icelandic authorities (being the principal responsible body for the execution of the Ramsar Convention in Iceland) thoroughly investigate and subsequently communicate to the Secretariat any potential threats to the Mývatn-Laxá ecosystem resulting from the Bjarnarflag geothermal power plant.

This effort of Landvernd and BirdLife has resulted in that Ramsar will send experts to Iceland in the summer of 2013 to investigate the possible effects of the plant on the country’s biosphere.

Online Petition to protect Lake Mývatn

Landvernd has also requested that Landsvirkjun stops its preparatory work at the site and carries out a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project as a lot of new information has accumulated since the current EIA was completed in 2004. To support this request, Landvernd initiated an online petition that has so far received around 8,000 signatures, which is almost 3.5% of people eligible to vote in the country.

Landsvirkjun considers renewing the EIA

Following this public pressure, Landsvirkjun has hired Efla Consulting Service to scrutinize the 2004 EIA to assess whether it is necessary to do a new assessment, in whole or in part. The company will base its decision on this audit and report on it in the summer of 2013.

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