Electricity as part of basic human rights

Human rights have been dictated to us since elementary school where many of us have read them every day with the class, but we have rarely associated them with the right to have electricity. So, we will analyze many concepts and issues starting from energy poverty, to see if the right to have electricity is part of the basic rights and where it lies between the right to citizens and the responsibility of government.

© Robert Shahini

“Energy poverty is the situation in which a family cannot access energy services at a level that can meet its social and material needs”1 (study). While, the factors that risk families to go into energy poverty are:

  • The increase of the price of electricity is higher compared to the increase in revenues
  • Inability to provide energy at a low price
  • Increasing household needs for energy
  • Lack of efficiency in energy use
  • Policy interventions2(study)

The conditions that predetermine whether or not we are in energy poverty are: energy efficiency in buildings, energy costs and household income. In other words, when a person / family is not able to provide the necessary energy in the apartment at an affordable price, we are dealing with an energy poverty.

When we talk about providing the necessary energy we are talking about the fulfillment of a number of basic rights such as: the right to a sufficient standard of living that corresponds to adequate health and lifeArticle 25  including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services; Everyone has the right to education Article 26, here it should be taken into account that the school education often can be online (case of pandemic) or accomplishment of tasks/homework by electronic means and internet.

According to the study conducted by EcoAlbania in 2018, in Tirana over 45% of surveyed households use electricity as the only way to cook, 69% of them use electricity to provide water to their homes by pumping, 68% use electricity to heat their home, 62% to cool it during the summer season and 95% of households use electricity to heat water. Cut to, in conditions of energy poverty, many families would not be able to meet these basic needs. In addition to what we talked about above, it is worth mentioning the fact that the needs of households for the use of energy are increasing more and more, the right to access information is ensured through having an electronic device, internet, television, etc. All of these constitute a wide range of rights secured by electricity. This right is very important even for United Nations governments.

In the goals of the United Nations for sustainable development launched as an action plan in 2015 to be realized by 2030, as the 7th objective is the provision of affordable and clean energy. Ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy access for all. Translated differently into 5 measuring components:

  • AVAILABLE to all, in sufficient quantity. 
  • ACCESSIBLE to all, implying four sub-components: geographically accessible, economically accessible, without discrimination, and having access to information.
  • ACCEPTABLE to all, meaning it supports a wide range of general needs (e.g., cultural, climatic, etc.) while also recognizing more specific physical needs (e.g., for pregnant women).  
  • Of sufficient QUALITY to all, meaning sufficiently reliable, safe, scientifically sound, etc.
  • SUSTAINABLE to all, increasingly this aspect is embedded.

One of the reasons why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030 are a transformative development framework is that they are based on human rights4. Albania as a UN member is committed to the 2030 agenda with the support of UNDP to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

For the reasons listed above we can say that electricity is a basic right, which should be guaranteed to everyone, geographically and economically accessible. The study conducted in 2018 showed that 42% of households have difficulty paying their electricity bill 5. (study) While many mountainous areas during the winter period have power outages thus conditioning not only families but also tourism businesses. (Valbona case) So we say that Albania’s work to guarantee clean and sustainable electricity is still great and so steps must be taken. Specially to see alternative solutions to provide energy as it is through solar panels and not Hydropower.


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Workshop with environmental NGOs in Vlora

The twelve environmental organizations operating in the region of Vlora, Fier and Gjirokastra were introduced to the online platform of the ENGONA project (Environmental NGO Network in Albania).

The platform will help civil society organizations for better cooperation and coordination in their objectives of raising awareness or advocacy about problems such as: the demolition of historical buildings, fires in protected areas, land pollution from chemical fertilizers, or the activity of quarries along the rivers.

ENGONA has conceptualized the platform as a thematic networking for: environmental advocacy, biodiversity and fauna, legislation and pollution. It will be functional even after the project is finished.

Local organizations were trained to use the platform by representatives of the four established networks as well as with the contribution of experts such as Prof. Dr. Arben Malaj and MSc. Fjona Kurtesi.

The ENGONA project through networking aims to mitigate the fragmentation that exists between organizations. This was highly appreciated by representatives of local civil society organizations, who expressed interest in networking with other organizations.

They suggested that organizations should be interactive with access to the platform thus increasing their capacities.

This workshop with civil society organizations was held on April 5, 2022 in the city of Vlora by the Institute for Public Policy and Good Governance (IPPM) in cooperation with the organization EcoAlbania and the ACEG Center (Albanian Center for Environmental Governance).

The ENGONA project is supported by LevizAlbania and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

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Wild Vjosa – documentary screened in the Vjosa Valley and in Tirana

On February 18th and 23rd, EcoAlbania organized the screening events to present the documentary Wild Vjosa (Vjosa e Egër). The events were organized in Përmet in collaboration with Cevsi Albania and in Tepelenë with with the support of the Municipality of Tepelenë. While the Tirana screening was organized on February 23rd and will be followed by the last screening event in Vlora on March 17th.  

In the film, investigative journalist Artan Rama explores the cultural, geological and environmental value of the Vjosa by spending time with international scientists studying its unique biodiversity and the people who interact with the river every day.

Audiences in the Cultural Palace in Tepelena and the City Cinema in Përmet enjoyed the dramatic aerial shots and candid interviews of Rama’s ode to Europe’s last wild river, followed by question-and-answer sessions with Besjana Guri of EcoAlbania. Particularly the high school children in the audiences spoke their opinions about what it’s like to grow up in the river valley, and what the future of the river might look like if it becomes a National Park, on the one hand, or if plans for hydropower develop go ahead and destroy this unique ecosystem, on the other.

While in Tirana the audience at the Millennium Cinema was diverse, starting from citizens, activists, outdoor sports practicians, NGO-s and journalist until representatives of the Government. The question-and-answer sessions with the producer Artan Rama, Olsi Nika and Besjana Guri from the EcoAlbania, was very interactive.

They explained to the participants the current situation of Vjosa River, and why the National Park is the best protection status that would ensure the full protection of the Vjosa river, including its tributaries. And from those who are still skeptical whether or not Vjosa should be declared a National Park seeing the construction of hydropower plants as a way to ensure economic growth, Olsi Nika from EcoAlbania answered, that “Destroying the last wild river in Europe with the justification of economic growth is like thinking of destroying Notre-Dame de Paris and building a shopping mall because it will bring in more revenue”. “Notre-Dame de Paris is a cultural heritage just as Vjosa River is a natural heritage, the last in Europe of its kind”, he added. 

Wild Vjosa (Vjosa e Egër) continues its national tour with the final screening at the Cultural Palace in Vlora on Thursday, 17 March at 17:00, where all the interested citizens from Vlora are invited to attend.

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Coastal erosion threatens the coastline in Vlorë, Durrës and Lezhë cities

Marine erosion is the advancement of land towards the sea. This phenomenon is a natural process which can be impacted by many secondary factors such as climate change. Coastal erosion is also accelerated by human activities such as deforestation or urbanization. The consequences of erosion have a long-term impact on lagoon and marine ecosystems. It can cause flooding of transient ecosystems such as lagoons or loss of coastal sandy beaches. A greater advancement of it could cause flooding of roads in the future which would bring a direct impact on the economy and especially on the tourism sector.

Coastal Erosion in the Adriatic Sea in Albania (c) Betilda Ahmeti / EcoAlbania

Based on the report “Mapping of environmental issues along the coast in Albania” developed by EcoAlbania and supported by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, in Durrës coastal erosion is estimated at 17% while in Lezha 20%. The perception of local actors on the importance of coastal erosion in the multitude of environmental issues is estimated to be quite problematic. The main reasons that these actors list for this perception are related to the destruction of vegetation, climate change and indiscriminate taking of inert materials in river beds. In Lezha, coastal erosion reaches the highest number in Albania, which reaches an annual average of about 2-3m. Here the biggest impacts are related to the illegal use of the riverbed for construction materials with a maximum rating of 4 points, while the destruction of vegetation ranks 3.8 out of 4 points. A very devastating impact is also the construction of large dams of HPPs on the Drin River, which has led to the blockage of solid materials behind these dams and their obstruction on the way to the sea as a response to marine erosion. Referring to these conditions, the sea advances at a considerable speed, “occupying” the coast and alienating the beaches and fragile lagoon ecosystems. The situation is the same in Vlora where we encounter a lack of plants and forests estimated at 3.25 out of 4 points, while the use of river beds as a source of illegal use for construction reaches 3.5 out of 4 points.

Indiscriminate collection of aggregates from river beds is recommended to be stopped and placed under strict control supervision by inspectorates as well as it is recommended to undertake extensive reforestation programs on the steep slopes of valleys or coastal dunes.

In order to stop this phenomenon and preserve the ecosystem, a number of measures are being implemented by local institutions. During the discussions held in Lezha, Durres and Vlora with representatives of the local level and representatives of civil society about the recognition of coastal issues, several conclusions were reached.

First, there is a need for greater public awareness of the environment and marine erosion. To reduce this phenomenon, on-site inspections and austerity measures such as fines related to the taking of aggregates from river beds are expected to increase.

Another problem is encountered in the flora and fauna rich lagoon of Kune-Vain in Lezha, where marine erosion has caused the abandonment of the beach by vacationers. Here a pricely investment by the municipality is also the breakwater equipment along the coastline. Thus, there would be no more flooding and advancement of the sea towards the land. In conclusion, if this was accomplished then tourism would also improve. However, this solution to the problem has not yet been realized as municipalities lack funding and are focused on civic advocacy programs about the problems that erosion brings to the environment.

Another effective solution against erosion is to approach reforestation programs along coastal valleys and dunes. For example, this would positively affect the Soda forest in Vlora, where in the future the presence of pines would serve as a barrier to marine erosion. Not only that, but in this area the activities of cutting down trees should be stopped and strict measures should be taken for them. Based on statistics, a pine in the Soda Forest area takes about 30 years to grow. For this reason, it has been suggested by the members of the protected areas in Vlora to ban the tourist guides until the pines reach a level of growth.

Finally, conducting in-depth studies on marine erosion and equipping institutions with specialists in the Municipality or relevant institutions would further assist the civic awareness process. This comes due to the fact that a better transparent level in institutions when publishing accurate maps of erosion on the Albanian coast and explaining its consequences, the higher the level of civic awareness.

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