By Ermelinda Hoxha / BalkanWeb
Well-known scientists from Austria and Germany have sent a letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama and other government representatives regarding the hydropower plant of Pocem in Vjosa. They have analyzed the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for the Pocem HPP on the Vjosa River. The EIA report proves that the project is in harmony with nature.
The EIA report proves that the project is in harmony with nature. However, according to scientists, this EIA is a farce and does not meet even the minimum standards, so it is not appropriate to predict the environmental impact of this hydropower plant. With this criticism, the scientists also support the argumentation and concern of their colleagues from the University of Tirana.
The Austrian environmental organization “RiverWatch”, the German “EuroNatur” and the Albanian “EcoAlbania” have previously criticized the quality of the EIA and are now being justified by the latest analysis of scientists. At the beginning of December, these organizations as well as affected residents of the area opened the judicial process in the Administrative Court against the construction of this hydropower plant.
In the analysis made by the foreign experts, they specifically emphasize that the flora and fauna were not evaluated in the EIA and no data were collected on the endangered species. Likewise, foreign experts have raised other concerns, such as: 60% of the text of the EIA was copied from other documents, and in some parts it refers to a completely different geographical area.
Hydrological, morphological and ecological processes have not been evaluated and possible long-term impacts have not been mentioned at all. In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Edi Rama, Minister of Energy Damjan Gjiknuri and Minister of Environment Lefter Koka, the international experts ask the representatives of the government to cancel this EIA and on the other hand to facilitate a proper assessment according to European standards.
“This EIA report does not allow in any way to make a reliable prediction regarding the impacts on biodiversity, the conditions of the underground water, as well as the consequences for the residents. It is nothing more than a mixture of other reports,” says Dr. Martin Pusch from the Leibniz Institute of Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries in Germany. According to the authors of the EIA, the Pocem hydropower plant project is in accordance with the highest international standards.
“The entire project is in full compliance with the best international standards and this increases the level of safety at work during the operation phase to a reasonable degree,” the EIA reads. While scientists strongly oppose this positioning: the conclusions of the EIA are not based on comprehensible data and do not meet international standards”, so say the experts in the analysis.
It is not about supporting or opposing the project, but more about the fact that good policies require proper and understandable planning as a basis for making decisions. In a river of such great international importance, the highest possible legal standards must be followed. We are always ready to support Albanian institutions to implement a proper EIA”, says Prof. Friedrich Schiemer from the University of Vienna.
The Vjosa is the last wild river in Europe and flows untouched through deep gorges, marshes and islands for about 270 km from the Pindi Mountains to the Adriatic Sea. The Albanian government and Prime Minister Edi Rama has given the green light to the Turkish company for the construction of the Pocem hydropower plant, which is planned to be built in the most ecologically rich part of the Vjosa river.
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