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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 07:03 GMT
Power project charges wildlife row
Geese - image supplied by Chirs Gomersall
The RSPB said the geese population was under threat
Plans for two hydro-electric schemes could place Scotland's pink footed geese population at risk, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Iceland boasts 90% of the global population of the bird and the majority of them spend winter in Scotland.

But the RSPB has warned that the Icelandic government's project could destroy the bird's breeding grounds.

Both schemes would provide power for North American-owned aluminium smelting plants based in Iceland.

Geese - image supplied by Chirs Gomersall
If these projects go ahead it will be a loss not only to Iceland but also to the world

Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
ISPB

The RSPB has urged the government not to press ahead with the hydro-electric construction.

Work is under way on the Karahnjukar hydro-electric scheme, in Iceland's central highlands.

The RSPB claimed the project would damage the breeding, feeding and moulting areas for 3,800 pairs of pink-footed geese.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, of RSPB Scotland, said one in seven geese could be at risk.

'Globally recognised'

He said: "The two sites are globally recognised for their importance for birds and other wildlife.

"But Iceland seems determined to renege on its international conservation commitments and damage and destroy substantial portions of these sites."

According to the RSPB, the scheme would flood up to 56 square kilometres of Arctic wilderness.

It claimed the project was initially rejected by the Icelandic planning agency, but that decision was reversed by Iceland's Environment Minister Siv Fridleifsdottir.

The RSPB also said that a second proposed dam at Thjorsarver would destroy habitat used by an estimated 500 to 800 pairs of pink-footed geese.

'Campaigned vigorously'

Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson, of the Icelandic Society for the Protection of Birds (ISPB), said that if the projects went ahead it would have grave ramifications.

He said: "Our society has campaigned vigorously to persuade the Icelandic government to refuse permission for these dams to be built and is asking for our government to protect the Karahnjukar and Thjorsarver areas for future generations.

"If these projects go ahead it will be a loss not only to Iceland but also to the world."

RSPB Scotland said its Loch of Strathbeg Reserve welcomed as many as 50,000 pink-footed geese during the winter, and 11,500 passed through Vane Farm in Perth and Kinross last November.

See also:

28 Dec 02 | Scotland
14 May 02 | England
11 May 02 | Wales
24 Jan 02 | England
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