228 scientists from 33 countries of the world in support of the last wild river in Europe

Joint press release from RiverWatch, EuroNatur and EcoAlbania

++Scientists request a ban on the construction of hydropower plants for 3 years on the Vjosa River ++Environmental assessment according to European standards is requested immediately ++Memorandum is sent to Prime Minister Rama++World Day of Rivers on September 25++

Tirana, Vienna, Radolfzell, September 22, 2016. On the occasion of World Rivers Day (September 25), the last wild river in Europe – the Vjosa River – receives support from prominent scientists from around the world. In a joint memorandum, 228 scientists from 33 different countries of the world ask the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama to protect Vjosa and stop the construction of hydropower plants, at least in the next three years. During this period of time, a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be carried out on this river which is in an almost completely intact state. Recently, the Albanian Government has given a Turkish company the concession for the construction of the Pocem hydropower plant. However, the license has not yet been granted, as well as the environmental statement (EIA).

Vjosa – the last wild river in Europe. (c) G. Subic

Among the signatories are the cream of international scientists for rivers, such as Prof. Robert Naiman from the University of Washington (USA), who is also the Director of UNESCO on Sustainable Rivers; Prof. Geoff Petts from the University of Westminster (UK), or the German professor Michael Succow, honored with the Alternative NOBEL Prize (Right to Life Prize).

“This outstanding support reflects the global importance of the Vjosa and the importance of responsible policies that do justice to the extraordinary values of this river. An appropriate EIA should be done to assess more seriously the impact of the Pocem hydropower plant”, says Prof. Friedrich Schiemer from the University of Vienna. Also, the 228 scientists address the following requests to Prime Minister Edi Rama:

  • 3-year moratorium on the construction of hydropower plants on the Vjosa River and its tributaries.
  • An EIA procedure according to EU standards, which will be carried out during this 3-year period.
  • A systematic research and evaluation of the Vjosa river, which should be done by a team of Albanian and international scientists. The signature scientists promise to seek funding for a 3-year interdisciplinary research program.

Vjosa is the last wild river in Europe. In its course of about 270 km, it flows freely without obstacles. From the scientific point of view, this river is very little studied. For example, the presence of nesting birds on large river islands requires further studies. However, the Albanian Government has decided to build the Pocem HPP with a 25 meter high dam.

With this memorandum, the world scientific community supports their Albanian colleagues who are also united in their stance against the irreversible destruction of Vjosa. “EIAs in Albania are usually not realistic. Our knowledge of the flora and fauna as well as the state of sediment transport in the Vjosa river system is too limited to carry out a reliable EIA. We have a lack of data and scientific research”, said Prof. Aleko Miho from the University of Tirana.

“Year is of great importance for science. In no country in the world is it possible to study the functioning of the natural dynamics of a river which enables multiple ecosystem services such as: fish production reserves, fertile land, biological diversity, drinking water, flood control and outdoor experience. The Pocem hydropower plant would destroy this entire unique ecosystem with a single blow,” says Dr. Martin Pusch from the Leibniz Institute of Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries (Germany).

Additional information:


Prof. Friedrich Schiemer – The University of Vjena: [email protected] +43 699 10188845

PD Martin Pusch – Leibniz Institute: [email protected] +49 30 64181681

Prof. Aleko Miho – The University of Tirana: [email protected] +355 68 27 07 208

Olsi Nika – EcoAlbania: [email protected] +355 69 2944757

Cornelia Wieser – Riverwatch: [email protected]  +43 650 4544784
Katharina Grund – EuroNatur: [email protected]   + 49 7732 92 72-10


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