Other landuses and interests

The Master Plan does not only deal with nature protection and energy utilisation

According to the Master Plan Act there is not only a requirement that the conservation value of nature and the cost effectiveness and profitability of various different options for utilisation should be taken into consideration when the power plant options are ranked. Here is a short account of other types of utilisation and interests that the steering committee and expert committees need to take into consideration in their work. 

Cultural historical relics

Cultural historical relics are considered to be evidence of the nations history, including antiquities and cultural and habitat landscapes. All antiquities in Iceland are protected and some of these enjoy a higher level of protection through the process of protection. Power plant construction work can affect cultural historical relics, e.g. by submerging them under reservoirs or cause erosion or denudation to them if they are near the water table of the reservoir.

Travel industry

The travel industry has now become the largest export industry of the nation and attracts more than 800,000 travellers per year (2013). The share of the travel industry in the foreign currency revenue of the nation was 26.8% in 2013 and as a result this sector earned more income than both the fishing industry and heavy industry. Studies show that approximately 80% of foreign travellers visit the country in order to experience the Icelandic nature. Power plant construction projects impact the travel industry in many ways. As an example we can point to road construction and road building that usually accompanies the construction of power plants and reservoirs. These roads are frequently significantly better than the older roads that were in the area and therefore the supporters of power plant construction projects point out that industrial development improves the accessibility for the public and travellers to places that prior to this were hardly accessible. Against this the nature conservationists point out that man made nature has less conservational value than the pristine nature and therefore it is less attractive to travellers  - i.e., that a better road is of little importance if no one wants to go sightseeing in the area where that road leads.

Tourism and outdoor life

Icelanders as well as foreign tourists have a great interest in travelling around in the Icelandic nature whether by foot, on bike, by horse riding on SUV's and motorcycles. Many associations and organisations involved in outdoor life and tourism have sent in their comments regarding planned projects for power plant construction and regarding the conclusions of the Master Plan. From these comments, and from the numerous articles in newspapers and magazines one may conclude that within this sector there is substantial opposition towards further power plant construction in the wilderness areas of the country.

Hunting and fishing

Hunting resources are varied but the types that are contemplated in the Master Plan are primarily fishing in rivers and lakes. Hydro-electric power plants can have a great impact on ecosystems in rivers and therefore it is very important how the operation of the power plant is managed and which counter measures are being adopted. There is not sufficient data available to assess the impact of power plant options on hunting resources with respect to the hunting of birds and reindeer.

Grazing resources and other soil resources

Grazing resources are a very important factor in sheep farming in Iceland and may even determine whether it is cost effective to continue farming in individual cases or not.  The Master Plan primarily focuses on sheep farming but the possible impact of power plant construction on horse grazing, cultivation of fields and other extra cultivation and grazing resources is also studied, where it applies.

Macroeconomic issues, economy and regional development

In order for it to be possible to assess power plant options from the viewpoint of sustainable development it is necessary to take into account the expected impact of the construction work on the whole of society, the economy and regional development.

Public health

Public health refers to the general health of a nation or a population group. Its points of contact with the Master Plan are primarily two, i.e. on the one hand the travel industry and the outdoor life of the public and on the other hand pollution from power plants.

Reduced possibilities for outdoor life because of power plant construction and the operation of power plants have a negative impact on public health and the same can be said about pollution from power plants, e.g. because of sulphur dioxide.