First visit to the Lule river


Last week we did our first visit to the Lule river (Julevädno), as part of the project The role of local knowledge in assessments of biodiversity loss and climate change impacts.

The Lule river is the second largest river in Sweden, and its hydropower contributes with at least 10 % of Sweden's electricity. It is sometimes referred to as the "battery" of Sweden as 40 % of electricity in Sweden is generated by hydropower, and the Lule river generates 40 % of all electricity from hydropower.

While hydropower produces fossil free energy, the local ecological impacts of its development have been severe. Before hydropower development, the river had one of the largest populations of salmon in Europe. By 1960 and the construction of Laxede power station, salmon and other migrating species could no longer move freely up the river. Today, as one of our informants said: "the river is dead", and the migrating species are virtually extinct here.

Seeing this large-scale river infrastructure is jarring. In some places, the dry river channel is an open wound in the landscape, like at the 14 km long Letsi dry channel. This wound speaks not only of the loss of biodiversity, but of Sweden's dark past with forced displacement of Sami and other local people.

In this research project we are trying to understand how local knowledge can be taken into account alongside ecological assessments of impacts of biodiversity in hydro-regulated rivers. We will work with local actors and organisations to explore the diversity in local ways of knowing along the Lule, Rönne and Gullspång rivers, in order to contribute to more inclusive and comprehensive decision-making.