Protect Lake Vättern

This article is complementary to the “Water is Life” event co-organised by Green Cross and Urbergsgruppen Grenna-Norra Kärr.
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Vättern supplies 11 Swedish municipalities with drinking water and another five municipalities are soon to connect to the lake. The municipalities of Örebro, Hallsberg, Kumla, Laxå and Lekeberg have recently decided to build an underground tunnel to Vättern to provide their inhabitants with water from Vättern. More than 500,000 households soon will have Lake Vättern water in their taps.

Now, we see threats increasing to the water quality of Lake Vättern. Since the 1920s the Swedish Defense has dumped ammunition in Lake Vättern and a considerable amount lies currently on the bottom of the lake. During the course of history, the military has dumped ammunition at some 300 locations in Sweden. During the 1940s, 50s and 60s the Armed Forces dumped ammunition at 25 places at sea, both on Sweden’s the West and East coasts. Dumping has also taken place in abandoned mines and in several Swedish lakes, including Vättern, Vänern and Mälaren. The total amount of ammunition dumped by the Armed Forces is estimated to be 6,500 tons. Ammunition consists of metals and explosives, especially 2,4,6-trinitrotoluen 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, also called Trotyl , TNT or Trinitrotoluen. (Source: Swedish Armed Forces and Sweden’s Coast Guard)
The Swedish Armed Forces have been granted permission to utilize Lake Vättern as a shooting range until 2026. According to several Swedish environmental organizations this means that the environment will be affected. The Defense has applied to increase its shooting exercises over the Vättern from 1,000 shots per year to 70,000 shots.

Another major threat to Lake Vättern’s water quality is an enormous mine planned by a foreign company in Norra Kärr, north of the town of Gränna. The purpose is to extract (REE) rare earth metals. According to the company’s own work plans the mining industry area would take up 10 square kilometers of the region. The bedrock must be crushed and approximately only 1% is used and the remainder becomes waste. In the extraction process large amounts of chemicals are used and the bedrock contains radioactive substances, which end up in large waste ponds at 120 meters above sea level. This type of mine poses major risks, for example if a mining pit of waste were to burst it would have disastrous consequences for the water and the environment.
A REE mine in the Norra Kärr area of the lake poses great risks to the protection of Lake Vättern and as drinking water, for surrounding water systems, and as well as all life in the area. In Norra Kärr many people and animals live today. Hundreds of properties exist in the planned mining area.