Reykjalið: Economy, Environment, and Experience

Reykjalid is very small, and the economy there is very limited. Today, the area mainly serves as an accomodation area for tourism, a local center for farms that live around the lake and those employed at Krafla Power Plant.  Just up the street from my guesthouse, I found two relics of unsuccessful attempts to expand economic activity here.  One was a newer looking, but unoccupied building that was opened by the company “Green Solutions” in 2005. They recycled paper by reforming into molded pulp pallets (a very specific product used as a base for loads of freight and sized for a forklift, for example supporting piles of bricks that are being shipped).

The other deserted building formerly housed a diatomite plant:

This story gives an example of Icelandic of the fragility of Icelandic ecosystems. Diatomite is the fossilized remains of an aquatic algae, and was pumped up from the bottom of the lake for three decades, beginning in the 1960s. It has various applications such as filters, as a additive in soil or paints, and insecticide.

Lake Myvatn is named after the large clouds of “midges” or flies breed around the lake, and are a main food source for birds and fish. Land-owners (farmers) around the lake have fished here for 1,000 years- now the fishery has all but collapsed. Midge populations went through increasingly extreme fluctuations and the fish no longer had a reliable food source.   Scientific studies showed that midge population fluctuations coincided with the diatomite dredging activity- suggesting that the activities may have thrown off the ecosystem’s balance, with severe consequences. Full explanation.

Due to pressure internal and international pressure regarding the environmental damage, the plant was closed in 2004. An image of Myvatn lake:

Because of the small size, many things in Reykjalið are within walking distance. The de facto town center consists of a gas station and supermarker, with a few small houses behind containing a bank and post office. The school is nearby, with the public swimming pool only a few minutes further down the street. A car is essential to get to anything but these basic facilities. As mentioned in the Akureyri post, residents travel there regularly (perhaps a few times a week) to obtain goods and access other resources.

All buildings are single family or small guesthouses/cabins with a few rented rooms. While the most common construction in Iceland is cast in place concrete, I saw a concrete block house under constuction (or rather, partially constructed and abandoned). Some streets have small sidewalks while my street had none.

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One thought on “Reykjalið: Economy, Environment, and Experience

  1. Pingback: Geothermal Power and Heating: Reykjalið and Krafla | Strategies of Integration: Sustainable Design in Iceland?

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