Sewage washes ashore at Norway’s prehistoric World Heritage site

Faeces, toilet paper, wet wipes and cotton earbuds were among the sewage littered around the UNESCO site of the pre-historic rock art in Alta, northern Norway.

Sewage washes ashore at Norway's prehistoric World Heritage site
Prehistoric rock art at Alta, Norway.Andrew Arch/Flickr

The waste at the site of the petroglyphs, or rock carvings in the Alta Fjord, near the Arctic circle was discovered during a beach cleaning day.

“When we followed the path down, we quickly saw that something was wrong. When we looked a little closer, we saw that were was faeces, wet wipes, Q-tips and tampons there,” Line Mårvik Pettersen told state broadcaster NRK.

“It didn’t smell. So, it clearly had been there for a while,” She added.

The sewage was lodged in seaweed that washed ashore.

There was a similar problem in 2011 when a sewage pipe in the same area became clogged; it is unclear what the cause of the problem is this time around.

“So far, we have not received clarity as to what the reason is,” Magne Opgåard said.

READ ALSO: Europe’s highest sea cliff amongst beauty spots which could become Norway’s new national parks 

The rock carvings date back to between 2,000 and 7,000 years ago and represent the only prehistoric monument in Norway. 

They were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. The World Heritage site consists of four areas in Alta with petroglyphs. These are Hjemmeluft, Kåfjord and Amtamannsnes and Stortstein.

“We are a world heritage area, and our world heritage is one of the most beautiful things we have. This is Alta’s face to the outside world, so it’s clear that it’s very unfortunate that you get sewage washing up in such a nice area,” Anita Taipo, department head at the Alta Museum, said.

“Had this happened in the middle of the season in 2019, where we have up to 1,000 visitors in one day, it is clear that it would not have been fun to show this,” she added.

Work is underway in Alta to clear the roads of snow so the equipment needed to investigate the problem can be transported to the site.

The municipality will then clear up the affected areas.

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Europe’s highest sea cliff amongst beauty spots which could become Norway’s newest national parks

Norway's Hornelen, Summørsalpane, Masfjordfjella Øystesefjella could become national parks if a proposal to the Norwegian Environment Agency becomes a reality.

Europe’s highest sea cliff amongst beauty spots which could become Norway’s newest national parks
Photo by Torbjorn Sandbakk on Unsplash

The proposal follows a 2016 report to the Norwegian parliament on biodiversity and will be considered by the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

“In order for us to propose new national parks, there must be certain acceptance in the municipalities that are affected. Good dialogue with the municipalities is also absolutely crucial for any further processes,” Norwegian Environment Agency director, Ellen Hambro told NRK.

A number of proposals in the past have previously been rejected due to a lack of local support, but several municipal officials have already publicly backed the new plan.

“It’s a day of joy. It is fantastic that the landscape values and outdoor values are in these mountain areas are appreciated;” Helene Ødven from The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) told state broadcaster NRK.

“I got butterflies when I found out, we have been working on this for almost 40 years,” she said.

One of the candidates is Europe’s highest sea cliff, at 860 meters, Hornelen.

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“As long as it is in accordance with what everything has been established by the industry, we would very much like to have it turned into a national park” said Anne Kristin Førde, mayor of the Bremanger municipality where Hornelen is.

National parks in Norway are protected, making it illegal to alter the landscape if it is not in the spirit of conservation. For example,  new roads and cabins may not be built, nor is it permitted to regulate watercourses.

There are currently 47 national parks in Norway.

READ MORE: ‘Out of this world’: Norwegian beach named ‘best in Europe’ 

“I am glad that the environmental authorities see the value of this area of untouched nature. This is an area that is important to take care of for the generations that come after us,” Sara Hamre Sekkingstad, mayor of Alver municipality, location of Masfjordfjella, told NRK.

If Masfjordfjella gets the protected status of a national park the mayor hopes it will prevent wind power being developed in the area.

“We are clearly against wind power in our mountain area, and we will remain so,” she said.