Përmet, Vienna, Radolfzell, December 19, 2014. On Wednesday and Thursday (17-18.12.2014) the first public discussions on the future of the Vjosa Valley took place in Çarshovo and Përmet in the south of Albania. While official government plans envisage the construction of eight dams along the entire river, the mayors and people of the affected communities support the alternative idea of creating a National Park. At these meetings, a declaration was signed to stop the dam projects and to protect the river as a National Park. “Summer Meetings” will continue next year with similar discussions with communities across the valley.
A number of 150 people have followed our invitation, also the heads of local governments have participated in discussions about the future of their valley. Representatives of national and international non-governmental organizations for the protection of rivers – explained the effects that the construction of dams will have and the idea to protect the entire length of the river, from the mountains to the sea, as a National Park.
“We are grateful for such information and the opportunity we were given to discuss this issue further. We do not want the construction of dams, but instead we want the Vjosa National Park. In this way, we can protect the river ours and maintain it for our economic future”, says Veli Mehmeti, the mayor of Çarshovë municipality. His colleague Gilberto Jace, the mayor of Përmet, says: “We are in favor of a national park, as it can promote the development of sustainable ecotourism and, as a result, improve the economic situation of the region. However, it must be a national park according to international management standards and not one that exists only on paper, like some others in Albania.”
Arta Dade, MP, who attended the meeting in Çarshovo, says: “I also support the idea of a national park and will inform parliamentarians about it. I strongly hope that we can save this beautiful river.”
The Vjosa in the south of Albania is one of the last wild rivers in Europe. Along its route of 270 kilometers it flows freely and untouched. In some areas the riverbed extends over more than 2 km. “The Vjosa is like a jewel in the crown of Europe’s wild rivers. The construction of the planned dams would destroy this impressive landscape, including the habitat of many endangered species,” warns Ulrich Eichelmann of Riverwatch, coordinator of the international campaign “Saving the blue heart of Europe”, a campaign undertaken by Riverwatch and Euronatur in cooperation with local partner NGOs such as EcoAlbania in Albania.
“We will oppose dam projects in the region and fight for the idea of a national park,” concludes Olsi Nika, the project’s coordinator.
The meetings were organized in the framework of the international campaign “Saving the blue heart of Europe” and are part of a series of similar activities along the Vjosa river valley. “Meetings of the Year” will continue next year with conferences in Tepelena, Memaliaj, Selenica and Novoselë, from January to April and will end with the “Day of the Year” in Tirana in May 2015.
For more information:
Besjana Guri – EcoAlbania | [email protected] | 00355 692954214
Theresa Schiller – EuroNatur | [email protected] | 0049 7732 927210
Cornelia Wieser – Riverwatch | [email protected] | 0043 650 4544784