With relatively scarce funding available for this year’s Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund grants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials opted to let the money go to the dogs. And an obsolete non-functioning power plant. And some dead grouse.
Eighteen applicants received a total of 2.47 million kroner in grants funded by a head tax on arriving travellers, a pittance compared to the 54 projects that shared 18.6 million in 2019.
This year’s grant winners again represent a variety of projects from both large organizations and individuals, but the fund’s board was forced to reject the vast majority of the 76 applicants who sought a total of 33.6 million kroner.
“As a result of the corona pandemic, the fund’s income for the year has fallen sharply,” the board announced in a statement announcing this year’s winners. “The board has therefore decided that this year’s allocation will prioritize smaller, local measures that provide activity in the Svalbard community, and which can be implemented regardless of any restrictions related to the pandemic.”
The biggest grant awarded this year was 400,000 kroner to Longyearbyen’s municipal government for preservation and restoration of the town’s old power station. It is among numerous projects to restore structures from the town’s historic mining days approved in recent years.
“This is a cultural monument that tells an important story about the Longyear community,” the board’s announcement states.
In a similar vein, Kings Bay AS received 300,000 kroner to restore four historic has also been granted funding for the restoration of four historic huts.
Several grants were awarded for “green energy” projects, including 138,000 kroner to Svalbard Husky and 82,000 to Green Dog Svalbard. On an individual level, journalist/author Line Nagell Ylvisåker received 31,000 kroner to become the first person in Longyearbyen to install solar cells on a private residence. A 100,000 kroner grant for recycling workshops was also awarded to Svalbard Resykkelerings Workshop.
Another priority in recent years has been public awareness projects due in part to the rapid rise of tourism, with many arriving via “mass tourism” such as cruise ships being relatively unaware of Svalbard’s environment and protection measures. This year’s grants include 200,000 kroner to the Longyearbyen Field Biological Association for information boards along the town’s coastal path about area birds and wildlife and 30,000 kroner to expand the polar environmental/climate collection at the school library.
Several new and ongoing research projects also received funding, including 188,000 kroner to the University of Groningen’s Arctic Centre to study microplastics in freshwater ponds, 150,000 kroner to Ingibjörg S Jonsdottir to study the long-term effects of climate change on Svalbard’s vegetation, 175,000 kroner to the Norwegian Polar Institute for a population and nesting survey of Svalbard grouse in 2021 that will also compare the figures to hunting counts.
The application deadline for the next round of grants is Feb. 1 – but the fund’s board warns the amount of funding available is also likely to be comparatively low.
“If the pandemic continues, there will be a moderate allocation next year as well,” the statement notes, adding “potential applicants are encouraged to contact the secretariat for discussions about project ideas and possible guidance in the application process before the next application deadline.”