The battle against hydropower plants united communities across Albania

++ Concerned about their future residents seek support from organizations and lawyers ++

Tirana, September 29, 2020. Under the slogan “Give Voice to River Protection” EcoAlbania organized a conference in Tirana with participation of local communities affected by hydropower projects, lawyers and activists, in order to share their concerns about these projects and to be advised by environmental experts and advocates on ways that can be pursued for their opposition.

The situation of HPPs throughout the Albanian territory is alarming, the rivers across the country are affected by the HPP disease. Over 700 hydropower plants are planned to be built across the country, affecting their rich flora and fauna. On the other hand, these projects are endangering the well-being of communities who have connected their lives with the water resources of their area, leaving them with no water and affecting the development of tourism and the local economy.

“There are not only 10 cases in Albania, there are much more and in most cases have been the residents who contacted us. We have supported every community in Albania, even those in Kosovo, who are facing the same concern” said Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania. He presented to the participants the whole experience with 10 meetings and especially the long experience with the Vjosa River. He recommended the residents and communities of all the villages to resist and support each other until the end of this battle.

During the meeting in Tirana (c) B. Guri/EcoAlbania

Part of the panel were also representatives from the Gur i Bardhë, Bicaj and Zhulat villages who shared their concerns with the residents and asked for the help of the organization to make possible the permits cancellation for the construction of hydropower plants. “Gur i Bardhë village is one of the 100 tourist villages announced by the government, where there are planned to be built 2 hydropower plants. The local community is against the construction of HPPs” said Resul Baleta, the mayor of Gur i Bardhë village.

“In the Sheja’s canyon, Kukës area, which is part of the Korab-Koritnik Natural Park, the decision to build another HPP was taken abusively, while another hydropower plant is at the end of construction. If this hydropower plant will be built, this area becomes uninhabitable, because there we have agricultural lands and livestock “, said Naim Mehmetaj, a resident of the Bicaj Administrative Unit. “We believe we will stop it,” he added.

The same concern is shared by Murat Keraj, a resident of Zhulat village, Gjirokastra, “The construction of the HPP on the Zhulat river will drain the water and the community is ready to protect it in all the ways.”

Local communities from Kukës, Mati, Mirdita and Gjirokastra, had the opportunity to consult with 2 lawyers present at this conference Elvana Tivari and Dorina Ndreka, who were willing to advise them on the steps that communities should follow to oppose these projects. Based on their experience with the legal battle for other hydropower cases such as the Poçem case in Vjosa, the hydropower plants on the Osum River and those in the Zall-Gjoçaj area, lawyers encouraged communities to seek the help of lawyers and organizations to follow their cases.

General information: The “Give Voice to the River Protection” conference was the closing meeting of the sharing meetings tour with the affected communities in Albania and Kosovo, which was organized within the “Give Voice to the River Protection” project.

The “Sharing Experience” tour was conducted in 10 villages in Albania and Kosovo:

  • Zall-Gjoçaj, Mat;
  • Zhulat, Gjirokastra;
  • Gjorica, Bulqiza;
  • Gur i Bardhë, Dibër;
  • Vukël, Malësi e Madhe;
  • Picar, Gjirokastra;
  • Xhaferaj, Kukës;
  • Biti e Poshtme, Kosovo;
  • Bicaj, Kukës;
  • Madhesh, Mat.