Friends of Vjosa

Friends of Vjosa meeting in support of the Vjosa National Park Now campaign

Tirana, 19 February 2021. The next friends of Vjosa meeting took place at the “Tulla Culture  Center” in Tirana. Vjosa’s loyal friends were present at this meeting which will serve the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign’s team to raise the topic of Vjosa as an important issue during the central government election campaign.

Their concrete engagement will be in the action that will be organized by EcoAlbania in Tirana within the campaign “Vjosa National Park Now” as well as through media articles or questions addressed to the three leaders of the main political parties in the country. The purpose of these direct questions focused on the vision that leaders have for the protection and development of the Vjosa Valley, is to document their promises for the Vjosa. Promises that could be monitored after the election as a form of accountability by the future government.

Friends of Vjosa Meetings are periodic meetings (2-3 per year) organized by EcoAlbania with friends and supporters of the Vjosa River, who come from different walks of life but share the same purpose: the protection of the Vjosa River and the proclamation of the Vjosa National Park.

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Sustainable development of the Vjosa Valley “gathers” in a meeting Friends of the Vjosa

Following the meetings of Friends of Vjosa, representatives of institutions, journalists, and environmentalists gathered on October 15, 2020 in Tirana to discuss the progress, related to the construction of hydropower plants on the Vjosa River. This meeting followed the decision of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment to refuse the environmental permit, which would allow the construction of the Kalivaç hydropower plant, as well as after important steps taken by the Energy Community to open the case against Albania, on drafting the Report of the Environmental Impact Assessment, for the construction of the Poçem hydropower plant.

In the meeting held in compliance with all safety protocols against COVID-19, Gjergj Buxhuku, Confindustria’s Administrator let the participants know that the institution he leads will organize the ‘Building a strategy for sustainable development of the Vjosa basin Forum’, where he invited EcoAlbania for cooperation.

Well-known journalist Ben Andoni emphasized the pre-election political situation, suggesting scenarios after the national elections happening on April. “We must lobby for the placement of the Vjosa issue on the electoral programs,” ​​said Andoni.

The participants discussions also focused on the challenges and steps to be taken in the future for the area sustainable development.

The ‘Friends of Vjosa’ efforts for the campaign of protecting the last wild river in Europe will continue, supporting the vision for declaring the Vjosa Valley a National Park.

Meetings of Vjosa friends are periodic meetings aimed at protecting the last wild river in Europe. To be part of the next meetings you can contact us at: [email protected]

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COVID-19 does not stop “Friends of Vjosa”: New steps to say “no” to HPPs

Despite the blockade caused by COVID-19, professors, journalists, tour operators and environmentalists came together to propose the next steps to stop the government’s plans to build hydropower plants on the Vjosa River.

Through an online meeting held on May 7, “Friends of Vjosa” pointed out that the new coronavirus did not prevent the company that won the concession of HEC Kalivaç from advancing with the procedures of obtaining an environmental permit, so they decided to intensify the campaign to say “no” to the construction of dams on Europe’s last wild river.

Prof. Aleko Miho, a lecturer at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, emphasized the petition with 776 signatures from scientists from different European countries. “After we submitted the petition to the President of the Republic, we planned a roundtable that would bring together all decision-making actors to confront the high natural values   that this extraordinary river represents,” said Prof. Miho. “The virus situation has pushed this roundtable later in time, but the scientific community will not back down to oppose this ‘drunk giant,'” he added, referring to Prime Minister Edi Rama.

The representatives of EcoAlbania, presented the Solar in Kutë campaign – EcoAlbania’s initiative to support the community of the village of Kuta in the battle against the Poçemi hydropower plant. The start of which has also been postponed due to the pandemic situation, but will be made public soon on online platforms.

The head of the Albanian Tour Operators Association, Rexhep Kasmi, guaranteed the support of the association he represents, emphasizing the need to unite all contributions. He also said that the petition of scientists should be further amplified in order to have maximum effect. “Also, we need a frontal ‘war’ in the media, with facts and the reflection of all resources as well as with international institutions,” said Kasmi. “Even the procedure for declaring a protected area needs to be deepened,” he added, stressing the high value of tourism development along the Vjosa Valley.

Meanwhile, well-known journalist Ben Andoni proposed the development of a public debate with the Prime Minister, whom he described as the only person who makes decisions. “It takes a confrontation to confront the facts, the values   of the Vjosa and to address the future of this river,” Andoni said.

Efforts of Vjosa’s friends group to protect the last wild river in Europe will continue, supporting the vision of declaring the Vjosa Valley National Park.

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Not HPPs, but solar energy – Vjosa Friends gather at the meeting

Diversification of energy production sources, as a form of avoiding the construction of hydropower plants on the Vjosa River was the topic that Vjosa’s friends brought together in the next meeting.

The meeting took place on January 29, 2020 in Tirana, while it was triggered by a new project that the organization EcoAlbania intends to implement in the Kutë village in Mallakastra. Specifically, the “Solar in Kutë” project, aims at installing photovoltaic panels in this village, initially in 5 public buildings and then in a second phase the extension of these plants in all village homes. Meanwhile, the purpose of this project is to give the message that energy can be produced from other sources than hydropower.

The meeting was attended by journalists, economic operators working in the field of solar panels and nature lovers, who discussed alternatives on how solar energy can be used to avoid the construction of dams on the Vjosa River.

“There is no doubt that the message that has been chosen is right, so the implementation of the ‘Solar in Kutë’ project will help the cause of the Vjosa without dams,” said Elton Sota from the Vega Solar company, who expressed ready to provide technical and professional assistance in this regard. “The sun is one of the sources of energy production, so it must be used,” he added.

Meanwhile, the journalists present at the meeting asked for more information about the project, emphasizing the importance of diversifying energy production sources, especially at a critical time in Albania. “Dependence on water resources has been caused loss of millions of euros to import energy, while photovoltaic plants will soften this bill,” said one of the journalists present. “Meanwhile, from Vjosa’s point of view, the benefit is double, as we also gain the tourism development,” he added.

Efforts of the Friends of Vjosa in the campaign to protect Europe’s last wild river will continue, supporting the vision of declaring the Vjosa Valley a National Park. The closest initiatives are related to the opening of a court case for the Kalivaç hydropower plant.

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