In 1990, Johanne Bech, an experienced tour guide from Sisimiut, marked the first long-distance hiking trail in Greenland between Kangerlussuaq, where Greenland's international airport is located, and Sisimiut, Greenland's second largest city. Within a few years it became the best-known hiking trail in the Arctic. On the hiking maps (hiking map of West Greenland, scale 1: 100,000) it bears the name "Polar Route", after which our association is also named. Soon the name "Arctic Circle Trail", abbreviated "ACT", spread for it. And more recently you can also read the name "Arctic Circle ROAD
", because in 2015 the municipality of Qeqqata decided to build a road between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut. Whether to build a road between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut had been a contentious issue between the municipality and the central government for more than 50 years, which was now to be brought to a conclusion with the construction of an ATV road. Since a real road would be too expensive, the first step was to build a road for all-terrain vehicles (Quods), which in Greenland are called "ATV" as an abbreviation of "all terrain vehicle". Soon, a link to an article
publicising this decision appeared on the website of the municipality of Qeqqata.
And soon a slightly larger PDF file
was published advertising this road with the prospect of good profits for some. To illustrate the expected economic benefits of this road, the following photo was shown on page 15 of this text:
The comment of a guest at the campsite: "The Hell's Angels are invading Greenland." A slightly more polite but more accurate explanation comes from the text accompanying the picture:
"The rental of motorised vehicles and bicycles, as well as guided tours along the nature road
, generate profits for tourism businesses ... Of particular interest is the fact that hunters can make extensive use of ATVs for winter hunting in January and February. ... But ATVs can also be used for trophy hunting."
"Igloo Mountain ApS", a tourism company, has expressed the expectation on its website (source: href=http://www.ski.gl/IglooMountainApS.aspx - now deleted) that it will be able to offer 8,000 to 10,000 rides per year with ATV rental on this ATV road. But of course that would be far too much of an environmental burden on the region.
One third of the hiking trail ("Polar Route" / "Arctic Circle Trail") is to give way to the road, to be relocated to another trail south of it. A German guidebook
, however, had previously, when there was no talk of this ATV road, urgently warned hikers not to use this "southern route", saying that this trail was very difficult, and in some cases even life-threatening. Moreover, a road parallel to the hiking trail will devalue it. Based on this, 300 hikers on the Arctic Circle Trail approached the municipality in a petition called "Memorandum"
and demanded to renounce the construction of an ATV road and to re-establish a boat connection instead, as it had existed before. Unfortunately, the municipality never responded to the petition (the memorandum) and did not even present it to the municipal parliament.
The proposed ATV road is to cross the World Heritage Site "Aasivissuit - Nipisat. Inuit Hunting Ground between Ice and Sea". In a similar case (the Waldschlößchenbrücke bridge built through the Elbe valley near Dresden), UNESCO had already decided to remove an object from the World Heritage List. When the inscription procedure for "Aasivissuit - Nipisat" was underway, corresponding concerns were also raised with UNESCO
, namely that the construction of the ATV road would violate the integrity of the World Heritage project and that practically the most important hiking trail in the Arctic would be sacrificed for the planned ATV road. When the WHC of UNESCO asked the Danish delegation, i.e. the applicant, about this, they rejected it and answered: "There are absolutely no plans to upgrade the Arctic Circle Trail to any kind of ATV or dirt road"
. According to the statutes of UNESCO, our association does not have the status of a corresponding partner in this procedure, but only the Danish delegation as a state party. So we could not object to this. This changed after the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and we were able to appeal to UNESCO/WHC about the endangerment of the World Heritage Site due to the planned construction of the ATV road, and apply for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger
. But on 5 June 2019, the WHC representative informed us that she had forwarded our application to the Danish authorities
for further processing. We have not received any response from them to date, except that an attempt was made to create a fait accompli and the construction of the ATV road started in July 2020: In July 2020, the municipality of Qeqqata received permission from the government in Nuuk to start construction of the ATV road. However, the permit contained a restriction. The road could only be built as far as the Kangerluarsuk-Tulleq fjord, but not as far as Sisimiut, to protect Sisimiut's drinking water supply. However, this means that the road will be completely worthless as a transport link for passenger and freight traffic between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut.
Despite this, construction of the ATV road was started immediately in Kangerlussuaq. But as someone from Kangerlussuaq told me in the summer of 2020, the start of the project with the ATV road was apparently a big failure that did not come close to delivering what had been promised before. For example, it had been announced that the construction of 800 m of road per day was expected. However, the actual construction work fell far short of these expectations. Apparently, the management of the road construction project was under great pressure. Probably for this reason, an article in English about the road was published in a magazine of 30.11.2020, allegedly containing an interview with the mayor of Qeqqata, Malik Berthelsen, under the title "The Arctic Circle Road: The Road to Freedom?"
. The article starts with a picture of the beginning of the ATV road, which you can see on the following page.