Albanian environmentalists are blocking dam torrents

NSHE SILOS The Kalivac construction site held concrete, which was once a large hydroelectric power plant. Now they echo with the barking of many birds that live on them. Cement mixers and earthmovers are still ready to roll. But a court ruling in late May may keep them stationary forever. The plaintiffs in the proceeding included an ecologist who had fought plants for years. They are trying to prevent the construction of new dams along Vjosa, the second longest river in Albania.

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Vjosa is still free-flowing, but Albania’s increasingly influential green activists haven’t cracked the champagne yet. “We won some court battles, but not the war,” says Besjana Guri of EcoAlbania. In Kalibak, the steep hills that fall into the river were damaged by the rice terraces of the dam. The original concession was granted in 1997. Tens of millions of euros were spent on preparatory work.

In 1997, Albania was on the verge of a civil war. Environmental protection was not on the agenda of anyone. In Albania today, like any other Balkan Peninsula, it’s a different world. Green groups and angry locals have joined forces to oppose the new hydropower plant, of which more than 3,400 are planned in the area.

Vjosa rises in Greece and flows 135 miles (220 km) through Albania. It is 2.5km wide in some places. Unusual in European rivers, the course is blocked only by a single dam near its headwaters. In Kute, where 38 villagers went to court with EcoAlbania to prevent the land from flooding, 84-year-old Xhemal Goxhaj clicked on the bead of concern and said: , Olive trees and vines. “

Ulrich Eichermann, a campaign to save Europe’s Blue Heart to adjust resistance to Balkan hydropower projects, may have money to make money by damming Vjosa, but that’s not a good reason to do so say. He says Londoners never knocked down Big Ben simply to build a shopping center “to make more money.”

90% of Albania’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power plants. But according to environmentalists, the future is the sun. They point out that the country has 300 days of sun a year and there is plenty of room for solar panels. Former Prime Minister and President Saliberisha wanted Albania to become a major energy exporter. But now the government is emphasizing tourism as a way to earn forex. Before the pandemic, the capital, Tirana, was well-known for its trendy nightspots. Albania has miles of barely developed coastlines.

Prime Minister Edi Rama is visibly frustrated by the Vjosa issue. Environmentalists “make a fuss about nothing,” he says. Because he had previously said that his watch would not dam the river. The problem is that environmentalists don’t trust him. Because in 2015 he promised that the area would be declared a national park. In the end, he gave it only “protected” status, which is not evidence of development. According to activists, the area can only be properly protected by becoming a national park. And even that, 37 dams cannot cover all of the many tributaries of Vjosa planned.

Rama says those plans have been frozen. The problem, he claims, is “how to cancel them altogether without paying half the country.” GDPWill be compensated. In the future, the river will be protected by patchwork in parks and protected areas. Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, Rama said. You need to find a balance. “

Environmentalists still have a lot of concerns. Oil giant Shell is looking for oil near Vjosa. However, activist attention has shifted to the river delta near the town of Vlorë. In the Narta Lagoon, flamingos walk cheeky, stately pelicans patrol the body of water, and fishermen complain about their low income. Nearby are miles of empty sandy beaches.

Construction of a new international airport in Vlorë, with its abandoned military airfield, will begin later this year. It was last used by drug traffickers who fly cannabis across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. In 2015, trenches were dug across the runway and stopped them. Unlike the upper villagers, the locals here are GungHo about the future. Upstream dams may make the area less attractive to tourists, but the airport here benefits. “24 families and 24 men do not have jobs,” said Pellumb Bala, who is preparing fishing nets, in his village. I need a job. “Birds in the area are protected,” Rama said, but clearly adds that “Albania cannot be a zoo in Europe.” ■■

This article was published in the printed European section under the heading “Unmpeded flow the Vjosa”.

Albanian environmentalists are blocking dam torrents

Source link Albanian environmentalists are blocking dam torrents

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