Save the Wetlands event held in Narta Lagoon with children from Vlorë

Today, on the World Wetlands Day, the Save the Wetlands event took place in the Narta lagoon. Forty students from the city of Vlora travelled just north to the Vjosë-Nartë Protected Area to participate in a morning of birdwatching and other educational activities led by EcoAlbania’s project team in cooperation with Protected Areas Administration of Vlorë.

Standing on the shore of the lagoon in the dazzling winter sunlight, biologist Betilda Ahmeti introduced the children to the many avian species that call Narta home during the winter, including egrets, flamingos, the Dalmatian pelican and other waterbirds. Passing round binoculars and enjoying their first chance to use professional birdwatching telescopes, the 6th– 10th grade children from “Reald School Vlorë were thrilled by the great variety of wildlife living just a few kilometres from their home city. While many of the children had visited Zvërneci monastery on the south side of the lagoon, closer to the Vlora metropolitan area, few had ever had a chance to get this close to the birds feeding in the shallow waters of the lagoon and the saline pools to the north of the city, and their enthusiasm was clear.

In a question-and-answer session coordinated by EcoAlbania colleague Marjana Çereku, the children and their teachers expressed their own views on the current situation of the area, which faces an uncertain future due to plans for the construction of an airport within the zone. Although there have been many aesthetic improvements to the roads and walkways of Vlora in recent times, the Save the Wetlands event also aimed to demonstrate the value of having such a beautiful natural site within easy access of the city, both for its eco-tourism potential and as a vital habitat for its non-human inhabitants.

After a short break, the event relocated to another area of the wetlands for a final round of activities, and finally the class returned to school with pleasant memories and hopefully the ability to impress their friends and families with their new knowledge of the magnificent local birdlife.


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Inauguration of Camping and River Sports Stations along the Vjosa and the Reforestation Action at the Willow Park in Tepelena

Tepelena, December 24, 2021. The action of reforestation and the inauguration of the camping and water sports station in the Willow Park was undertaken today by EcoAlbania and the Municipality of Tepelena, with the help of young people from the Vjosa Valley. Also present at this event were Mayor of Tepelena Mr. Tërmet Peçi, Chairman of the Municipal Council Mr. Elvis Shehu, and the deputy of the area Mr. Laert Duraj.

“This is an initiative that should become a tradition, because if we want to show that we are cultured, the environment that surrounds us is our passport. EcoAlbania has been a promoter of the protection of the Vjosa River and the development of eco-tourism in the area, so EcoAlbania should be the first ambassadors of this type of tourism that we want to develop in Tepelena, because God has blessed us by surrounding us with three rivers, mountains, and canyons, and a history not easily found in other places,” said Mayor Tërmet Peçi, while Mr. Laert Duraj said that he is one of the supporters of the vision for the proclamation of the Vjosa National Park and EcoAlbania’s initiatives are always welcomed.

This initiative, organized in Tepelena along the Vjosa River, aims to promote and restore this area to serve the development of natural tourism in the Vjosa Valley. The development of eco-tourism in the area is one of the best alternatives for the development of the local economy, which is in line with the vision for declaring the Vjosa Valley a National Park.

“The action of reforestation of Willow Park which took place this morning with the youth of the Vjosa Valley comes as a continuation of the initiative ‘Forest of Hope’ launched by EcoAlbania, which aims to promote the reforestation of the Vjosa Valley. This action, supported by the youth of the city of Teplena and Përmet, serves not only as a stabilizer of the riverbank but also as an example of youth engagement,” said Olsi Nika from EcoAlbania.

The Vjosa Valley carries high potential for tourism development in the area due to the natural and cultural values it represents, while this initiative paves the way not only for the development of tourism in the area but also for the employment of young people in the eco-tourism sector. It would provide an important incentive for them to choose to live and work in their homeland. Furthermore, the creation of support structures to practice outdoor sports and river sports enables young people to get involved in the tourism sector by promoting the natural and cultural values of the Vjosa Valley.

“The Vjosa River is already a national and international tourist attraction, which, if it receives the appropriate protection status, that of a National Park, will create an important tourist brand. This brand will very soon lead to an increase in the number of visitors and the demand for local accommodation and entertainment services”, added Olsi Nika.

Additional Information

This event was the closing of a series of activities carried out within the project “EYES on Vjosa”, one of which involved the training of tourist guides, focusing on the youth of the Vjosa Valley.

The event was organized in the framework of the project “EYES on Vjosa: Youth Engagement in the Eco-Tourism Sector in the Vjosa Valley”, which aims to bring another view to the development of the region, including tourism development, by engaging young people. The project is implemented by EcoAlbania with financial support from UNDP.


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Solar in Kutë: The first community project in Albania for the production of solar energy starts

++ After a fundraising campaign, solar panels are installed on the rooftops of public buildings and streets of Kutë village as an alternative to hydropower plants for the benefit of the local community and environment ++

December 3, 2021, Kutë, Mallakastër. Today the inauguration ceremony of the project “Solar in Kutë” took place in the village of Kutë, Mallakastër. Representatives from the Municipality of Mallakastër, the Embassy of the Switzerland, EcoAlbania and the residents of Kuta attended the event. The Solar Project in Kutë is an innovation project in Albania as it is the first community project for the generation of solar energy by installing an independent power generation system to supply electricity to the five public buildings of the village: Health Center, School, Culture Center, Administrative Unit and street lights.

Solar in Kutë is a successful initiative launched by EcoAlbania and its international partners Euronatur and Riverwatch in 2020. The initiative raised funds for the implementation of the solar energy in Kutë village – one of the communities of the Vjosa valley that would be affected by the Poçem hydropower plant. We came up with the idea of making Kutë village solar powered to give the strong message that the local communities can find less harmful alternatives to produce their energy,” said Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania.

After more than one year of fundraising, including crowdfunding, the Solar in Kutë project has now been implemented and will officially start producing energy after the inauguration event. This will power the community with solar energy in Kutë as an alternative to hydropower and serve as a shining example for other communities and villages in Albania.

I am glad that our strong partnership with civil society represented by EcoAlbania, community of Kutë and the municipality of Mallakatra has implemented modern techniques like rooftop Photo Voltaic panels and produced clear and tangible benefits for the citizens and the environment. These benefits include lower energy cost, reduced carbon emissions and pollution, better quality of life and more attractive villages. We believe that the initiative of Solar in Kutë village has created the first inspiring model of community owned energy in Albania to be followed by other communities and municipalities,” said Deputy Head of Mission of Embassy of Switzerland in Albania Patrik Meier.

The Municipality of Mallakastër and the residents of Kutë village are the direct beneficiaries of the Solar in Kutë project, while the project will serve as a good example for other communities in Albania.  Thanks to the cooperation between the Municipality of Mallakastër and EcoAlbania with the support of the Swiss Embassy and other donors, this investment was made possible in the village of Kuta. The Vjosa River as an internationalized asset, thanks also to EcoAlbania’s work should produce well-being for the inhabitants living here, maintaining the balance with nature. I think that the best option to develop this area is the development of environmentally friendly activities, like river sports and other public and tourist enterprises which are environmentally friendly “, said Zamir Malasi, Deputy Mayor of Mallakster.

“By using the rooftop areas of the village, we are aiming to change the village’s future from the question-mark of its existence toward building an environmentally friendly and economically viable model of renewable energy community” added Olsi Nika. 

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Online petition: Vjosa National Park, the only way to save Vjosa – a better future for local communities

The last wild river in Europe is in danger and National Park status is the only level of protection that can save it. After a decade of efforts to protect Vjosa River, the supporters of the cause are gathering to request the Prime Minister of Albania to proclaim Vjosa a National Park as soon as possible. Sign the petition and share it with your friends, so that more people join this effort to protect what nature took thousands of years to create.

How can we protect Vjosa?

Nature Park status is not enough. In 2020, Vjosa was proclaimed a Nature park, but this is not enough to fully protect Vjosa. Companies can still search for oil next to Vjosa or build dams in its tributaries, the small rivers that feed the main river.

It’s National Park or nothing. National Park status is an internationally recognized standard of protection and the only status that can stop businesses and future governments from destroying the free flowing river and its tributaries.

Which are the benefits of proclaiming Vjosa a National Park?

  • Albania would have the first truly wild river National Park in Europe, estimated to attract around 1.5 million visitors and 10-30 million Euros of income each year.
  • Increase in national and international tourism. National Parks get 20% more visitors than any other kind of park.
  • Increase in employment: Based on data from other National Parks in the Balkans, for every job created in the National Park, 6 additional jobs will be created in the local communities nearby.
  • Further development of eco-tourism, which allows Albanians to enjoy the beauty of the river and nature without damaging them, and conserving this way the cultural heritage and way of life built around Vjosa.
  • Saving the last wild river in Europe (outside of Russia). Vjosa provides a habitat for about 1,100 species, many of which are globally endangered species.

So what is next? We need as many signatures as possible to present this petition to the Prime Minister of Albania. Sign it and share it with friends so we show how many people are in favor of saving Vjosa, forever.

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