Environmental groups present the idea of a national park for Vjosa

Qesarat,  08 May 2014

On the islands of the Albanian Vjosa river near the village of Qesarat, an unusual event took place today, representatives of national and international environmental groups together with people from local communities and local businesses came together to propose an alternative plan for Europe´s last big wild river – the idea of a Vjosa National Park.

Press conference in Vjosa River © A.Guri

We are here to announce our wish to establish a Vjosa National Park. We want to protect this river for the benefit of nature and local communities, said Kujtim Mersini, Chairman of PPNEA.

The Vjosa River is one of Europe’s last living wild rivers. Along its entire course of over 270 kilometers – from its source in the Greek mountains to the Adriatic Sea – it is untamed and free flowing. Together with its tributaries, the Vjosa provides a dynamic, near-natural ecosystem that is without par in Europe. However, this natural treasure is at great risk. The Albanian government intends to have eight large dams built on the Vjosa and many smaller ones are projected along its tributaries.

“The Vjosa is of an incredible importance for the biodiversity, especially for the fish, molluscs and other species. But on the other hand we must learn much more about its processes and biodiversity”, said Spas Shumka, one of Albania´s scientists community.

Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the Balkan rivers campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” and CEO of the NGO Riverwatch adds: “For many people in Albania this might be just a normal river – but from an international perspective the Vjosa is something extraordinary. Even most international freshwater experts still have no idea that a river like this is still existing in Europe. Its like the discovery of a species that was believed to be extinct”.

A Vjosa National Park would:

–    protect the wildlife and the ecological processes of the last big wild river in Europe

–    improve the income of local communities through increasing eco-tourism

–    create sustainable jobs in the region since the park needs Rangers,  a managed National Park centeretc

–    support the local business: tourists from all over Europe may come go hiking, rafting, fishing. Local companies would benefit.

–    increase the scientific knowledge: even internationally little is known about dynamics of a large wild river. Scientists from Albania as well as from all over the world could come and study the Vjosa.

–    Increase the international reputation of Albania´s landscape (besides beaches and mountains)

“We live with the river. We want the Vjosa to stay alive and we are hopeful that our communities would benefit from a national park. Dams create no jobs for our people, a national park would do so. We are supporting the idea of a national park”, says Hysni Çela – mayor of Qesarat.

For further information:

www.balkanrivers.net | www.ecoalbania.org | www.riverwatch.eu | www.euronatur.org

– Olsi Nika – EcoAlbania | [email protected]

– Besjana Guri – EcoAlbania | [email protected]

– Ulrich Eichelmann – Riverwatch | [email protected]

– Theresa Schiller – EuroNatur | [email protected]