The Swiss ambassador and the head of the Council of Europe office visit the residents affected by the Pocem HPP

Press release from EcoAlbania

Kutë, Mallakastër February 15, 2017. In an open meeting organized by EcoAlbania in the village of Kutë, in the municipality of Mallakastër, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Albania, Mr. Christoph Graf, head of the Council of Europe office in Albania, Mr. Claus Neukirch as well as the expert on direct democracy issues, Mr. Andreas Gross, together with the Mayor, Mr. Agron Kapllanaj, were interested in the initiative undertaken by the Albanian Government for the construction of HEC-Poçem.

“The issue of Vjosa is a complex issue that has to do not only with environmental problems but also with the functioning of democracy and the rule of law,” said Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania. In his speech, he also focused on the lack of transparency in the entire procedure followed so far by the Albanian government, not informing the affected community and denying them the right to be part of the decision-making process.

During the conversation with the diplomats, the citizens present spoke against the construction of the hydropower plant. According to them, its construction may cause flooding of the agricultural land they have, which is the main means of livelihood for them. “Agricultural land is the only asset with which we can feed our families” – said the residents.

During the visit to Kutë village. (c) B. Guri/EcoAlbania

They unanimously agreed that the hydroelectric plant meant inevitable displacement from the land of their grandparents and great-grandparents, which they were determined not to accept. “We have been living here for centuries and here are the graves of our ancestors. The destruction of our lands and the environmental catastrophe that is being prepared are unacceptable!” said Dilaver Murataj, a resident of Kutë village, during the meeting.

Likewise, they claimed that the plan for the construction of the HPP was never consulted with them. Apart from that, no one had organized any meeting or public debate, either by the central government or the company interested in the construction of the HPP. “As a local government, we have never been officially notified about the construction of the Pocem HPP. What we have done so far is that we have officially conveyed the concern of the community to the central government in Tirana, but we have not yet received any response,” said the Mayor of Mallakastër, Agron Kapllanaj.

In his speech, Ambassador Graff expressed that he was surprised by the fact that residents do not have any information about the Pocem HPP and encouraged them to use democratic means so that their voices are heard.

In continuation, those present also visited the place where the hydropower dam is planned to be built in Počem of Mallakastra. There, it was explained to them about the environmental impacts that the construction of this HPP will have on the Vjosa River, which is considered a rare river on the European continent due to its high natural integrity.

With the support of LëvizAlbania – local democracy in action and the Swiss Embassy, EcoAlbania is working to strengthen the mechanisms that guarantee the active participation of the community in the decision-making process.

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