The building of controversial overhead power lines, dubbed “monster masts” by opponents, has moved into a new phase that will see construction begin in the scenic region of Hardanger, with local campaigners planning action to disrupt the process.
The escalation of the construction project began on Monday, with work planned to become possible in several places along the proposed power mast route in the coming weeks. One of those places will be the area in which opposition to the plans has been most evident, Hardanger.
After months of speculation and debate about the project, and the consideration of a series of alternatives, the government finally decided to press ahead with the plans in March. In the face of sit-ins and storms of protest from local campaigners and environmentalists, the original decision had been postponed in autumn 2010. Many local politicians also joined protests to stop the project, which many believe threatens local biodiversity and scenery in the tourist-friendly west Norwegian fjord.
‘David and Goliath’
One leading activist in Hardangerakjonen, Håvard Gjerde, told newspaper Dagsavisen that the organization, which has now replaced the earlier ‘Save Hardanger Campaign’, was gearing up for further resistance to the plans. “The fight is not lost,” he said. He added that “we want to let people’s commitment be expressed,” and described a continued “will for action” among the protestors. Another representative of the movement, Lars-Helge Ljone, stated in a press release that “the task reminds us of David’s fight against Goliath.”
Gjerde would not “bind” the campaign to an exact date for any actions, but confirmed that preparations were under way. Rumours suggest that some activists are planning to build a camp in the path of the proposed power lines, but Gjerde and other campaign leaders would not confirm the plans. When work began on the lines in Kvamskogen in October, the project had to be delayed for a day because of on-site protests. Since then, around 20 masts have been built from Kvamskogen onward.
‘Work in peace’
The leader of the construction project itself, Steinar Bygdås, told Dagsavisen that he and his colleagues “don’t know anything more than what we read in the paper” on the potential for civil disobedience. He stated that “we will do our job on the basis that we get to work in peace.”
In terms of the potential for unrest, Bygdås confirmed that “our position on any eventual actions remains the same as it has been the whole time: if there is anything that hinders our work, we will pull back,” adding that “it will be up to the authorities to find solutions.”