A Norwegian experience to remember, (Part II) Trondheim: Exploring the impact of hydropower on fish

By Vidyadhar Atkore

In spite of his busy schedule, Prof. Alfredsen had promised to meet on Sunday in his office in the NTNU campus. I took an overnight train from Oslo to Trondheim on Friday night, and reached early in the morning. It was raining and I found myself grappling with extreme cold. The roads were covered with ice and very slippery, making it difficult to walk at a normal pace. I looked around for shelter but there was none. The roads were near-empty with barely a few private cars and buses. Exposure to the cold for a mere fifteen minutes had turned rather painful. Fortunately, a kindly passer-by gave me directions to my hotel, Trondheim Vandrerhjem. Once I checked in, I had no intention to venture out in the cold. I took plenty of rest and left only in the late afternoon to explore Trondheim. I visited the museums in Trondheim and learnt more about the local inhabitants, especially the Sami people.

Trondheim had been the capital of Norway from 1030 CE to 1217 CE. It was also the burial site of King Olav II Haraldsson, after his army lost the Battle of Stiklestad in C. E. 1030. His grave remained on the banks of river Nidelva, close to the future site of the Nidaros Cathedral, for many years. When his grave was later moved, it was discovered that his hair and nails had continued to grow. This led to his being canonized as Saint Olav, and eventually Nidaros Cathedral became a popular pilgrimage site.

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An exhibit depicting the position of marine fishes in the water column, Natural History Museum maintained by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim.

The first thing that I had noticed about Trondheim was the Nidelva River (‘elva’ is Norwegian for river) that flows by the city. The Nidelva originates in the Sylan mountain range and meets the Trondheim fjords (fjords are narrow sea or lake inlets with steep sides or cliffs created by glaciers). It is one of the main rivers in Norway, which has been harnessed for tapping hydropower energy. The river is about 221 kilometres long, and has sixteen hydropower stations built on it, thus making it one of the most regulated river systems in Norway.

The Trondheim city is known for its technology institutions such as the NTNU and the SINTEF (the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research). The city is also famous for a variety of historical places, and I was rather fortunate to be able to visit most of them. These places include the Nidaros Cathedral, the Old Town Bridge, the Archbishop’s Palace Museum, the Kristiansten Fortress, the NTNU University Museum, the Ringve Botanical Garden, and the famous wharves.

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The famous wharves along Nidelva River, Trondheim

The Nidaros Cathedral was built in 1857 and is a shrine to St. Olav. It is Northern Europe’s most famous pilgrimage centre. The Old Town Bridge was built in 1681 to connect the city with the Kristiansten Fortress. The Kristiansten Fortress was built after the great city fire of 1681. During the Second World War the Nazis used the fortress as a place of execution for members of the Norwegian resistance.

Visiting the NTNU museum was a wonderful experience. It had lovely exhibits on natural history, archaeology and cultural history. Similarly, visiting the Ringve Botanical Garden at Lade was another pleasant experience. The garden contains a collection of threatened plant species from across Europe, and depicts the botanical diversity of the region.

Meanwhile, I met Prof. Alfredsen at the SINTEF office. He is a renowned hydrologist at the Department of Civil Engineering, NTNU. He has extensive research experience in assessing the impacts of hydropower on fish ecology. In the past, he has supervised students from Asia, including from India and Nepal. I was acquainted with his work and thrilled to meet him in person. He shared with me some of his recent work, including his students’ research, on the fish-hydropower relationship, and was happy to know about my own interest in the subject.

Prof. Alfredsen took me out for lunch to Egon Tårnet, a restaurant that gently rotates atop a 74 metre-high tower. The rotation enables the visitors to drink in the sights of the entire city of Trondheim by the time they finish a leisurely meal. After a lunch of delicious pasta, Prof. Alfredsen and I drove 25-30 km to a hydropower station, atop a hillock, that he had been associated with for many years. The river was in a low flow condition. A few natural waterfalls situated up-stream were now replaced by the hydropower dam. As we drove back to the city, I thanked Prof. Alfredsen for his hospitality, invited him to ATREE as well as to Arunachal Pradesh, where I was carrying out post-doctoral fieldwork.

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A view of the city from Egon Tårnet restaurant, Trondheim
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The Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim
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The Old Town Bridge, Trondheim, which attracts tourists from all over the world.

Text and pictures by the author.

About the author:

Vidyadhar Atkore is a Senior Research Associate with ATREE interested in assessing the impact of hydropower on native fishes in the Eastern Himalayas. He enjoys travelling, cooking and hopes to see the Aurora Australis one day.

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