Press Release

Bern Convention calls on the Albanian government to review the plan for building the Vlora airport in Narta Lagoon

Tirana 19 October 2021. The Bureau of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention, on its last meeting, called on the Albanian government to review the plan for the construction of Vlora Airport. The Committee shared the deep concern regarding the plan for the urbanization of the Vjosa-Narta protected area and emphasizing the values of the natural values of the area, demanded the implementation of a strong protected regime.

The issue of the Vlora airport project was included in the complaint previously filed by EcoAlbania on the Presumed negative impact of hydro-power plant development on the Vjosa river, where the construction of the airport in Vjosë-Nartë protected area is included as an imminent threat to the Vjosa delta ecosystem . “Major development projects such as the airport and hydropower plants endanger the Vjosa Valley, a unique ecosystem with rich biodiversity, thus our efforts to preserve it are being strongly supported by international institutions such as the Standing Committee of Bern. We, as a civil society, have been demanding the declaration of the entire Vjosa valley as a national park for a long time. Our proposal is to include also the Vjosa delta, part of which is the Narta lagoon “, said Olsi Nika, from EcoAlbania.

Last February, about 40 national and international environmental organizations asked the government to cancel the project for building the Vlora International Airport in the Vjosë-Nartë Protected Landscape. “Narta Lagoon is one of the most important wetlands in Albania and the Mediterranean and plans for its urbanization risk damaging its ecosystem irreversibly,” said Aleksandër Trajçe from PPNEA.

Narta Lagoon in the Vjosa river delta is being threatened by the government’s plans to build an airport (c) Adi Guri

The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention opened the case on the hydropower plants in Vjosa since 2018, asking the Albanian government to immediately suspend the Poçem and Kalivaç hydropower plants until the necessary strategic planning and environmental assessments are made. While the attention recently given by the Bureau to the Vjosa Delta, reinforces the voice of environmental organizations that are concerned about this project.

The protected landscape Vjosë-Nartë, is one of the protected areas with extraordinary biological diversity in Albania and without a doubt one of the most important areas in Europe from the ecological point of view. Vjosë-Nartë serves as a migration corridor for many creatures and especially for migratory birds. For this reason, it is also globally recognized as an area of special value and is part of almost all international networks of areas of importance for nature conservation. This fact must be respected in the first place by the Albanian government itself to prevent the impact of any development project that damages this ecosystem “, said Taulant Bino from AOS.


The Council of Europe Convention on the Conservation of Wildlife and Natural Habitats, otherwise known as the Berne Convention, is a mandatory international legal instrument in the field of nature conservation, covering most of the natural heritage of the European continent and extending to some African countries. Albania ratified the Berne Convention in January 1999 and its implementation entered into force in May of the same year. Violation of this convention may confront the country with diplomatic pressure as well as various sanctions that may be taken by the European Union or unilaterally by other countries that have ratified this convention.

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30 scientists assess Vjosa tributaries, data will be used to fight in court the hydropower projects

Tepelena/Brataj Albania, Vienna, Radolfzell, June 3, 2021. From May 29 to June 6, a group of scientists from Austria, Albania, Italy and Germany, collected multidisciplinary data from the two major Vjosa tributaries Shushica and Bence. This research week is a follow-up of a comparable undertaking at the Vjosa in 2017 (HYPERLINK), which contributed substantially to our success in establishing the ecological value of the Vjosa, fending off the hydropower projects (HPP) and the designation as a protected area.

With this year’s research week, organized once again by the two lead scientists Prof. Fritz Schiemer (University of Vienna) and his Albanian counterpart Prof. Aleko Miho (University of Tirana, the scientists pursue a similar goal: while the hydropower threat to the Vjosa is averted for the time being, her major tributaries are still under attack. Five HPPs are projected on the Shushica, while the Bence is threatened by no less than eight HPPs. The scientists explain, that in order to protect the Vjosa, it is vital to also protect her tributaries, as the uniqueness of the Vjosa river system lies in the intactness of the entire catchment.

“If you destroy her tributaries, the Vjosa will inevitably be destroyed too, just like the trunk of a tree eventually dies if you cut off all its branches.” Fritz Schiemer emphasizes.

To show the value of this picturesque tributaries, multidisciplinary research is essential.  Thus, it required 35 experts from different disciplines to gain a comprehensive insight: hydromorphologists, vegetation ecologists, algologists, specialists in aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, ichthyologists, ornithologists, herpetologists, experts self-purification processes and groundwater ecologists. The scientists spared no expense and effort to participate in this research week and contribute to the protection of these outstanding ecosystems.

“We offer once again our support to the newly elected government of Albania in protecting the unique Vjosa river network and establishing Europe’s firt wild river national park. If you build a single dam” says Prof. Aleko Miho.

“The HPPs on the Shushica are currently the most imminent threat. Together with the local communities along the river and NGOs, we are determined to stop these projects. For this battle, the data collected will be crucial,” says Dorian Matlija, layer from the organization Res Publica.

The Shushica and Bence, as well as other free-flowing tributaries should become part of the Vjosa National Park, but therefore they need to remain undammed. If just one dam is built, the respective river could no longer be included in the national park. That would also destroy the economic opportunity from eco-tourism for the local communities. 



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Court rejects Turkish company lawsuit against the Environmental Statement for the Kalivaçi hydropower plant

Tirana, 28 May 2021. Today, the Administrative Court of Tirana has rejected as “fundamentally unfounded” the lawsuit for the development of HPP Kalivaç against the “Negative Environmental Statement” issued by the Ministry of Environment for the “Environmental Impact Assessment” served from the company. The Ministry and the National Environment Agency were joined and supported by the environmental organizations like EuroNatur, Riverwatch and EcoAlbania as well as 39 members of the local community affected by the Kalivaçi project.

In September 2020, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment issued the “Negative Environmental Statement”, not giving the green light to the company to continue the procedures for the construction of the Kalivaçi HPP. After that, in February 2021, the Turkish company filed a lawsuit in the Administrative Court to overturn this decision, but the court rejected it today. Lawyer Vladimir Meci says: “In this trial we brought reasonable arguments of many foreign and local scientist, whom have criticized the Environmental Impact Assessment presented to the authorities”.

Residents affected by the project as well as national and foreign environmental organizations have opposed the Kalivaçi hydropower, rising concern about the negative impact that the HPP will have to the biodiversity and the life of the residents who live by the Vjosa River.

“We welcome the court’s decision and we think that this is another message for the government that should finally resign from the projects to construct hydropower plants and to make Vjosa River a National Park,” – says Olsi Nika from EcoAlbania.

The battle for the protection of the Vjosa River and declaration of it a “National Park” according to international parameters, is an initiative that has been supported by many important personalities, but also by activists around the world.

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Pressure continues for a Vjosa National Park as new government forms in Albania


Tirana, Vienna, Radolfzell, April 28, 2021 – The election may be over, but the fight for the Vjosa is not. Over the last several months, support for the Vjosa has grown tremendously in Albania, other European countries, and around the world. As a result of campaigning, Edi Rama’s government agreed to a low-level ‘nature park’ protection for the Vjosa in March – which is a good first step.

“Vjosa National Park” campaign in four European capitals, EcoAlbania.

However, it is not sufficient as it still makes it possible to build dams, drill for oil along the river’s banks, even build an airport and tourist resorts on the wetlands near the river’s mouth and the protected area would exclude the streams leading to the main river. As a prime example, the oil company Shell started their project to look for oil and gas. Plainly, a nature park designation cannot protect the Vjosa from these environmentally destructive activities.

“Vjosa National Park” campaign in Gjirokastër, Tepelena, Përmet, EcoAlbania.

To fully safeguard the river and use its potential for eco-tourism, the government needs to protect it to the highest international standards by designating it as Europe’s first Wild River National Park.

Supporting the “Vjosa National Park” campaign on social networks, EcoAlbania.

Olsi Nika from EcoAlbania states: “While the titles ‘nature park’ and ‘national park’ sound very similar, they couldn’t be more different in terms of the level of protection they offer. Only a national park can fully and legally protect this beautiful ecosystem from future development.”

We urge the new government of Albania to take the next step to improve the current protection measures along the Vjosa by:

  • upgrading the protection category from nature park to national park and
  • extending the protected area by including also the tributariesZagoria, Kardhiqi, Bënça, and Shushica.

Supporting the “Vjosa National Park” campaign on social networks, EcoAlbania.

Albanian citizens, national and international scientists, and environmental organisations stand ready to help Albania protect this national treasure and support the new government to make this a reality.

Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch says: “The new government must prioritize the protection of Albania’s precious environment, starting with the Vjosa. Without appropriate protection, the area will be ‘eaten up’ by uncontrolled expansion of tourist resorts in the delta region, dams in the middle and oil drilling in the upper part of the river. That´s why we will continue this fight until the Vjosa is designated as a national park.”

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