Remember that episode of “The Simpsons” where they had to move the whole town 8 kilometers (five miles) down the road? Well, in one of the more absurd moments of “Simpsons Did It,” this Swedish city is more or less doing exactly that.
Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost city, is moving 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) east of its current location,The Guardian reports. This Swedish city, some 145 kilometers (90 miles) into the Arctic Circle, was built on its iron-ore mining industry around the turn of the 20th century, through the mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB), and since grown to a bustling city of over 20,000 people.
But in a cruel twist, that mining is undermining the foundations of the city. After LKAB massively expanded their mining operations in recent years, the ground is already fracturing and at a near-certain risk of subsiding totally.
The city will prevent its untimely demise through demolishing then rebuilding the vast majority of its buildings – which includes 3,050 homes, shops, offices, the hospital, schools, and even the city hall. Twenty-one of the city’s more fortunate buildings of historical significance, such as the church (above), will be carefully dismantled and reassembled. Some of their buildings, namely those already on the east side of the city, will remain where they currently stand.
With the help of a 12 billion krona ($1.4 billion) cash injection from LKAB, the relocation will take place in staged phases, starting in 2019, and won’t be completed until at least 2040.
But while the move might be a necessity and is being met with a surprising amount of positivity by locals, some concerns are still bubbling in the quaint Swedish city.
Mikael, a local teacher, told The Guardian: “I’m concerned that the iron ore prices are going down, which implies LKAB are running out of money. I’m worried that they will destroy the buildings in the city and not have enough money to rebuild them.”
Kiruna is fortunate (in some respects) in that it has the financial backing of LKAB and is located in an economically prosperous country. By the end of the century, it’s expected that huge chunks of the world will become uninhabitable due to climate change. But for many of these residents forced to move from man-made environmental pressures, this second chance won’t be available.
Check out this video about the move by VisitSweden, “This is Kiruna: How to Move a City,” below.