++ Local government units sign a petition against the construction of HPPs in Vjosa++
Tirana 20.02.2017. For the first time, the Local Government Units of the Vjosa valley come out in a joint public reaction against the construction of hydropower plants. After the continuous opposition of the residents of the valley, national and international organizations, scientists and the European Parliament, recently the mayors of the valley have spoken in defense of Vjosa. The municipalities of Përmet, Tepelënë, Memaliaj, Mallakastër and Selenica, through an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Speaker of the Parliament Ilir Meta, have raised the concern of the communities they represent regarding the construction of hydropower plants.
At a joint table organized by the EcoAlbania Center, the mayors, faced with a situation where the entire Vjosa valley is facing the threat of turning into a large hydropower park, have undertaken this public initiative by asking the central government to re-consider the plans for the construction of hydropower plants in Vjosa and its branches. “We, as a local government, have not been officially informed about the plans for the construction of the Pocem hydropower plant and the residents affected by this HPP have not been part of the public consultations”, said Agron Kapllanaj, the mayor of Mallakastër.
The concern over the lack of transparency regarding the Pocem HPP has been raised before by the affected residents on both sides of the river and is also the subject of a legal process opened by the residents themselves and environmental organizations. “The problem of Vjosa is an issue that has to do with the functioning of the rule of law and democracy in the country. The inhabitants of the valley are the ones who should be part of the decision-making for projects that directly affect their lives and future”, said Olsi Nika, from EcoAlbania.
The Vjosa Valley represents a high potential for the development of tourism and scientific research due to its high natural integrity. This river is closely connected with the daily life of the residents of the area, offering opportunities for the development of agriculture, fishing and tourism as the main source of future economic development. Vjosa is a treasure of the country’s cultural and social-historical heritage. “We have other plans for the development of the valley, the development of tourism. The construction of HPPs undermines this potential. Tepelena has many natural and historical assets which should be promoted and developed in a sustainable manner”, said Tërmet Peçi, the mayor of Tepelena.
Specifically, the elected representatives of the local government of the Vjosa valley ask the Albanian Government:
- To reconsider HPP projects along the Vjosa River and its tributaries
- To take initiatives for the suspension of concession contracts for the construction of HPPs along the Vjosa River and its tributaries
- To guarantee the implementation of mechanisms for community participation in decision-making which originate from the Albanian legislation in force
- To cooperate with the LGUs of the Vjosa valley and other actors, to explore strategies for sustainable economic development for the area, considering development projects that do not harm the integrity of the river and that guarantee the protection of our natural heritage.
- To demand full transparency from the Greek Government on interstate agreements on rivers.
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.