Vindelälven hydel project, Sweden


Vindelälven (The Vindel River) is a 453 km long river running through the province of Västerbotten in Sweden (2). It is one of the most biodiverse areas in the northern part of Sweden thanks to the variation in topography, bedrock and soil, as well as agricultural practices (2).

See more...
Basic Data
NameVindelälven hydel project, Sweden
ProvinceVästerbotten (Province)
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe combined kWh per year for the entire Vindelälven hydro power project was estimated to 2,8 billion (1).

The reservoir by the lake Gautojaure would be 46 m above the average water level of the lake and would place a populated river valley under water. The capacity of the reservoir would be 1 300 million m3. The lakes Tjulträsken and Granselet would be dammed 17 m and 24 m respectively. The reservoir of Granselet would have the capacity of 450 million m3 while the Tjulträsken reservoir would have a capacity of 165 million m3.

The lake Storvindeln would become a 230 million m3 reservoir. (1)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population850
Company Names or State EnterprisesNUON from Netherlands
Relevant government actorsVattenfall
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersVindelådalens aktionsgrupp, founded on the first of June in 1969. The action group was founded as a result of years of informal communication along the river between people who thought that the river has to be saved. There is no webpage, the group no longer exists., Today the EJO Älvräddarna (, founded in 1974, works for protecting Swedish rivers.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)UNKNOWN
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationBoycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation: When representatives from Vattenfall organised a meeting with the people of Adolfström (one of the villages that would be under water if the project was realized) to offer them compensation, everybody walked out of the room as the representative started speaking, to show their refusal of compensation. The action group Vindelådalens aktionsgrupp conducted a survey, asking landowners that would be affected by the project if they were for or against the exploitation of the river. The results showed that the proponents only were a slightly higher number than the opponents - shedding light on the actual views of the public. (1)
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject cancelled
The project plan was abandoned thanks to local resistance and media attention. The viability of the project was also questioned which contributed to it not being conducted.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The plan to exploit the Vindel river was abandoned thanks to organised resistance and protests. The river is now protected as a National River in Sweden. There are many Natura 2000 areas on and around the river as well as Ramsar areas. The river has been suggested to become a Ramsar area in its entirety and is also a candidate for the world heritage list of UNESCO (1).

The Vindel River has been given an icon status among Swedish waters and the conflict marked the beginning of the end of the era of extensive hydro power exploitation in Sweden. (1)
Sources and Materials

Natura 2000,
[click to view]

[click to view]

Vattenlagen (1983:291), Sweden’s water law:
[click to view]

The EU water framework directive,
[click to view]


(1)Västerbotten Magazine, Issue 2, 2008, Special issue on the Vindel river,
[click to view]

(2)Speech by Christer Borg (from the EJO Älvräddarna – The River Rescuers) on the National River Day, 2013-08-17, Renforsen, Vindeln, Sweden,
[click to view]

Other CommentsThe start-date of the conflict as written here is the date where the present inhabitants of Adolfström, a village that would end up under water if the project was realised, simultaneously left a public meeting where Vattenfall would offer compensation. This day became symbolic for the struggle to save the Vindel River.
Meta Information
ContributorLinda Dubec
Last update08/04/2014