July 14th, 2016, Poçem, Mallakastër. Residents of the Vjosa valley, mainly from Kuta village protested today against the construction of Poçem hydro-power by blocking the national road Levan-Tepelenë near Poçem village. This is not the first protest they organize. In addition they have the support of many national and international environmental organizations. They have opposed from the beginning the construction of the hydropower plant and they have asked to the Albanian government to proclaim the Vjosa National Park and to not allow the construction of any HPP within the entire valley.
This protest was initiated by the latest developments in the Poçemit bridge where the Turkish company, owner of the concession for the construction of Poçem hydropower plant on the Vjosa River, started the work, pinpointing the area where the dam will be built and starting geological studies in the field. But residents did not allow to continue further, forcing the company’s experts to leave the place where the dam is planned to be built. They say they are not informed beforehand about the project and they are not part of the decision-making process. Faced with this fact, they are gathered today, many more and united to demand the government to hear the voice of those who have related their life with the river. They believe that the river could be a different development potential.
The fertile lands of the Vjosa valley provide to the locals income for living and the river itself provides to the villages the drinking water and for irrigation, moreover ensures the development of fisheries and tourism at such a rich and dynamic part of the river. Many tourists from distant places would come just to see and experience the feeling of enjoying the wonderful landscape of a natural river – the landscape of the last wild river in Europe.
Meanwhile the construction of a 25 m high dam will flood the villages of Kutë, Çorrush, Anëbreg, Shkozë, Sevaster, and many other villages, causing many social and environmental problems. It will also affect people’s life by flooding thousands of hectares of agriculture land, pastures, olive plantations etc. As a continuing of the the efforts made of the awareness raising, EcoAlbania encourages the local community to become part of the decision-making process and to react against this decision. The residents, supported by the local government seek for their right to be respected, regarding to information and participation in decision-making process. They have expressed their demands through the petition addressed to the Albanian Government.
About 2,000 residents directly threatened by this dam, have signed a petition addressed to Prime Minister Edi Rama and to the Albanian government to stop the Poçem hydropower project and to avoid the flooding of Kutë and all the surrounding threatened villages. In addition they have asked to prohibit all hydro-power projects within the valley and announce Vjosa National Park instead, according to European standards.
EcoAlbania is implementing the project ACTIV, within the program LëvizAlbania with the financial support of the Swiss Embassy in Albania and intends to increase the active public participation in decision-making, regarding the sustainable use of natural resources.