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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 12:43 GMT
Iceland's environmental dilemma
Tunnel entrance at the dam site in Karahnjukar
Crossing Continents
Thursday 22 March 2007
1102 GMT on BBC Radio 4

Iceland has branded itself as the new power house to the world.

The government is keen to make a profit out of the country's cheap, clean and renewable energy.

But for this, it has begun flooding 57sq km of pristine wilderness in East Iceland to create a massive dam that will feed energy to a new smelter owned by the American company Alcoa.

For BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents, Richard Hollingham travels to Iceland to investigate if the marketing of green energy is worth the loss of so much unique wilderness.

Richard visits the Karahnjukar Dam accompanied by engineer Sigurdur Arnalds who is very proud of the scale of the engineering work.

The new dam and smelter have already begun to revitalise Iceland's under-populated East.

Gunnar, who has recently returned to his hometown to take a job with Alcoa, tells Richard that "jobs create jobs" and that East Iceland has a bright future now.

But farmer Orn is concerned that the dam will destroy his livelihood.

Many - in Iceland and abroad - are angry that Western Europe's largest wilderness is paying the price for Iceland's industrialisation.

And with the elections pending, even the government seems inclined to sing to a greener tune.

The programme was repeated on Monday, 26 March 2007 at 2030 BST.

Presenter: Richard Hollingham
Producer: Anca Toader
Editor: Sue Ellis

Crossing Continents


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