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Gálgahraun road construction: nepotism and cronyism are alive and well in Iceland

Some things, bizarre as they may seem at the time, later turn out to have a perfectly rational explanation.

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Take that road they want to lay across the lava to Álftanes, for instance. Now there’s a bizarre undertaking if there ever was one. There’s a perfectly good road that is already there, which if it was widened and otherwise amended a bit, would serve perfectly well as a means of getting people out to Álftanes and back. Furthermore it would do so for a small fraction of the cost of bulldozing over an amazing lava field that is moreover listed as a natural conservation site [ok ok, the stakeholders claim that this particular stretch of the lava isn’t on that list but the lava adjacent to it, but that’s splitting hairs in my opinion] and building a new road there.

So someone started digging around. After all, the way they were hammering this thing through, despite court injunctions, demonstrations, people practically chaining themselves to the bulldozers etc. – was really quite harsh. And now it turns out that there are actually a handful of people who stand to profit handsomely from this road, because their land suddenly becomes much more valuable.

So who are the owners of the land? Well, among them are the father and uncle of Bjarni Benediktsson [Independence Party, currently Minister of Finance]. And – surprise surprise – the road construction, as well as this particular route [there were four to choose from, and this one was most convenient for the landowners] was approved when Bjarni Benediktsson was on the planning committee.

Yesterday there was a demonstration in front of the Ministry of the Interior. The Minister, an Independence Party member, was unfortunately absent, as she was in East Iceland to open a new road [oh, the irony]. However, she sent word that the road construction in the Gálgahraun lava field would not be stopped.

Good to see that nepotism and cronyism are still alive and well, just five short years after the economic meltdown nearly sank this nation.

[Photo: a painting of lava in Gálgahraun by Jóhannes Kjarval. From Flickr.]

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  • jpeeps October 23, 2013, 12:29 pm

    Frankly enough to make one’s blood boil. It’s the cynicism of these operators that takes the breath away, assuming that they can get away with it… Grrrr!!.

    Fight a good fight against these f***ers!!! (can anything be done from leafy north London to help?)

  • Michael October 23, 2013, 12:37 pm

    And who are the owners of that road construction company? Has the opposition (in majority according to latest polls come out with an official statement? When will the supreme court decide?
    Geee, its truly breathtaking !

  • Katharine Kroeber October 23, 2013, 12:55 pm

    What jpeeps said. I’m surprised I can type coherently, I’m so furious. Well, you saw my picture on all this…

  • alda October 23, 2013, 2:03 pm

    Michael – not sure who the owners of the construction company are. Nothing untoward has been dug up – yet, at least. As for the opposition, they have been completely silent on this issue. Why, I don’t know. The Supreme Court decision will take a while – months. That’s why they claim they can’t wait – because they would have to pay such high damages to the construction firm due to the delay.

  • Michael October 23, 2013, 4:53 pm

    That is precisely what worries me: the opposition is polled to have a majority but is weak (to say the least)! This Álftanes road case has all the ingredients for the opposition to demonstrate a difference, and yet they remain silent !? Unfortunately I believe to observe also in other cases that they have no communication/information strategy (beyond Icelandic, also Polish, Danish, English, German).

  • Katharine Kroeber October 25, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Eirikur Einarsson put up on FB a couple photos which as far as I can tell are two options for road-construction there. If I’m understanding them correctly, it really is an impressively unnecessary boondoggle of the worst sort. Especially since it appears to me the distances involved are really not that huge — it’s not as if ripping across this landscape will shave off an hour, or even half an hour, from someone’s commute. Sigh.