ACTIVE

Civil society undertakes the initiative to amend the law on concessions of HPPs in Albania

++ National forum held in Tirana to consult recommendations on amendments to national legislation of for HPP-s concessions++

Tirana, November 8th, 2018. National and local environmental organizations, together with law and environmental experts, have undertaken a civic legal initiative for changes to the HPP concession package. They have made a thorough analysis of the four sectors, energy, tourism, environment and water policies, strategies and legislation in the spirit of their approximation with EU legislation.

In the panel from the left, Olsi Nika, EcoAlbania, Ola Mitre, Moderator, Elda Kalaja, LëvizAlbania and Elvana Tivari, legal expert.

In the panel from the left, Olsi Nika from EcoAlbania, Ola Mitre moderator, Elda Kalaja from LëvizAlbania and Elvana Tivari, legal expert.

The situation of HPPs in Albania is alarming, as more than 540 hydropower plants have been planned in the entire territory of Albania – a significant portion of which (around 39%) in protected areas and areas with high natural potential such as the River Vjosa and its branches. “We have followed the legal ways to oppose HPP projects in the valley of Vjosa, Osumi, etc. and yet we think this would be an endless battle as the current legislation favors the issuance of new permits without implementing the highest standards for environmental protection, “said Olsi Nika, EcoAlbania’s Director.

EcoAlbania together with local partners Alliance of Albanian Alps and Argonaut has conducted 4 local forums with Civil Society Organizations, Local Government Units, experts and local environmental authorities in Kukës, Shkodër, Tepelenë and Librazhd to consult the draft with the amendments that will then to be proposed to the relevant Parliamentary Groups and Ministries.

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The forum was organized in the framework of the project “ACTIVE II – Community Engagement – Indicator of Integration in Decision-making”, that is being implemented by EcoAlbania in partnership with local NGO’s Albanian Alps Alliance and Argonaut. It is funded by LëvizAlbania – for a strong local democracy by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC.

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The second local forum in the framework of encouragement of civic environmental law initiative took place in Tepelenë

Following the lobbying and advocacy activity to improve the legislation on HPP concessions in Albania, EcoAlbania continued with the organization of the local forums.

During the meeting with local environmental organizations, environmental experts, representatives of local authoritis in Tepelenë © V. Kabili

During the meeting with local environmental organizations, environmental experts, representatives of local authoritis in Tepelenë © V. Kabili

On 23 June 2018, the second meeting took place in Tepelenë, with participants from local environmental organizations, environmental experts, representatives of the Municipalities of Tepelena and Memaliaj, RDE of  Gjirokastra, representatives of Prefecture of Gjirokastra County, journalists, etc. Environmental and legal policy experts followed up with the draft of the analysis of the plans, strategies and national legislation of the energy, tourism, environment and water sectors, in the spirit of their approximation with EU legislation.

 “No public authority should announce a concession contest without ensuring that the object of the race is in compliance with national plans and strategies,” said E. Tivari, the legal expert, adding that the law should provide guarantees in this regard. Further, she also emphasized the importance of specifying the elements that the concession fees should contain, such as the charge for the use of natural resources by the concession company.

Discussions followed between experts and the local participants © V. Kabili

Discussions followed between experts and the local participants © V. Kabili

Meanwhile, one of the concerns raised by the participants dealt with the future of these hydropower projects after the end of the concession period. According to them, there should be a specific legal provision that forces state authorities to consult with the local community regarding the decision-making on the future of a hydro power plant after the end of the term of  the concession contract.

The Tepelena Forum will be followed by three other round tables to be held in Shkodra, Prrenjas and the national one in Tirana. Recommendations that will come from experts, CSOs and institutions will be reviewed and included in the final draft of recommendations for amendments to concession legislation for HPPs.

This meeting is organized in the framework of the project “ACTIVE II – Community Engagement – Indicator of Integration in Decision-making”, that is being implemented by EcoAlbania in partnership with local NGO’s Alliance of Albanian Alps and Argonaut. It is funded by LëvizAlbania – for a strong local democracy by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC.

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Community Engagement – Indicator of Integration in Decision-making (ACTIVE II)

Title of the Project:  Community Engagement – Indicator of Integration in Decision-making (ACTIVE II)

Project goal: Improve the national legislation regarding the concessions on hydro-power in Albania

Objectives:  

Objective 1. Encourage the civil society initiative to improve the legislation on HPPs concessions in Albania.

Objective 2. Lobbying and advocacy at the community, government, legal, legislative and political level to improve the legislation on HPP concessions in Albania.

EcoAlbania is implementing the project ACTIVE II in the frame of  “LevizAlbania” program with the financial support of the Swiss Embassy in Albania.

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The Swiss ambassador and the head of Council of Europe meet the local people of Kutë

Press release by EcoAlbania

Kutë, Mallakstër, February 15th, 2017. During the open meeting with the local community, organized by EcoAlbania in the Kutë, the Swiss Ambassador in Albania, Mr. Christoph Graf, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Albania, Mr. Claus Neukirch and the expert on issues of direct democracy, Mr. Andreas Gross, together with the Mayor, Mr. Agron Kapllanaj, were interested in the initiative taken by the Government regarding the construction of Poçem hydropower plant.

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Foto: B. Guri/ EcoAlbania

The Vjosa case is a complex issue that involves not only environmental problematics but also to the functioning of democracy and the rule of law” stressed Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania. He also highlighted the lack of transparency throughout the procedure followed so far by the Albanian government by not informing the affected community and denying the right to be part of decision-making process.

During the conversation with the diplomats, the local people stayed against the construction of hydropower. According to them, its construction could cause flooding of agricultural land they have as the basis for their living.

Agricultural land is the only asset which we can feed our families” – said the residents. They said unanimously that the hydropower plant means inevitable migration from the land of their ancestors, something they were determined not to accept.

We live here for centuries and here we have the graves of our ancestors. The destruction of our lands and environmental catastrophe that our government is preparing, is unacceptable “- said Dilaver Murataj, resident of the village Kutë.

Moreover, they claimed that the plan to build the power plant was never consulted with them. In addition no one had submitted a project, nobody had organized a public meeting or debate, either from central government or by companies interested in the construction of HPP. This was also confirmed by the mayor Mallakastra, while in his speech, he pointed declared: “As local government, we have never officially been notified regarding the construction of Poçemi HPP. What we have done so far is that we have officially forwarded to the central government in Tirana, the community concerns regarding this project, but have not yet received any response

In his speech Ambassador Graff, he was surprised of the fact that residents have no information about Poçem HPP and encouraged them to use all democratic means in order to make their voices heard.

After the meeting in Kutë, participants visited the Poçem Bridge on the Vjosa River, where potentially the dam of the hydropower is planned to be built. Representatives of EcoAlbania explained to them the environmental impact that will have the construction of the hydropower plant on the Vjosa River, which is considered rare in the European continent due to its high natural integrity.

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