Give voice to river protection

The battle against hydropower plants united communities across Albania

++ Concerned about their future residents seek support from organizations and lawyers ++

Tirana, September 29, 2020. Under the slogan “Give Voice to River Protection” EcoAlbania organized a conference in Tirana with participation of local communities affected by hydropower projects, lawyers and activists, in order to share their concerns about these projects and to be advised by environmental experts and advocates on ways that can be pursued for their opposition.

The situation of HPPs throughout the Albanian territory is alarming, the rivers across the country are affected by the HPP disease. Over 700 hydropower plants are planned to be built across the country, affecting their rich flora and fauna. On the other hand, these projects are endangering the well-being of communities who have connected their lives with the water resources of their area, leaving them with no water and affecting the development of tourism and the local economy.

“There are not only 10 cases in Albania, there are much more and in most cases have been the residents who contacted us. We have supported every community in Albania, even those in Kosovo, who are facing the same concern” said Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania. He presented to the participants the whole experience with 10 meetings and especially the long experience with the Vjosa River. He recommended the residents and communities of all the villages to resist and support each other until the end of this battle.

Part of the panel were also representatives from the Gur i Bardhë, Bicaj and Zhulat villages who shared their concerns with the residents and asked for the help of the organization to make possible the permits cancellation for the construction of hydropower plants. “Gur i Bardhë village is one of the 100 tourist villages announced by the government, where there are planned to be built 2 hydropower plants. The local community is against the construction of HPPs” said Resul Baleta, the mayor of Gur i Bardhë village.

“In the Sheja’s canyon, Kukës area, which is part of the Korab-Koritnik Natural Park, the decision to build another HPP was taken abusively, while another hydropower plant is at the end of construction. If this hydropower plant will be built, this area becomes uninhabitable, because there we have agricultural lands and livestock “, said Naim Mehmetaj, a resident of the Bicaj Administrative Unit. “We believe we will stop it,” he added.

The same concern is shared by Murat Keraj, a resident of Zhulat village, Gjirokastra, “The construction of the HPP on the Zhulat river will drain the water and the community is ready to protect it in all the ways.”

Local communities from Kukës, Mati, Mirdita and Gjirokastra, had the opportunity to consult with 2 lawyers present at this conference Elvana Tivari and Dorina Ndreka, who were willing to advise them on the steps that communities should follow to oppose these projects. Based on their experience with the legal battle for other hydropower cases such as the Poçem case in Vjosa, the hydropower plants on the Osum River and those in the Zall-Gjoçaj area, lawyers encouraged communities to seek the help of lawyers and organizations to follow their cases.

General information: The “Give Voice to the River Protection” conference was the closing meeting of the sharing meetings tour with the affected communities in Albania and Kosovo, which was organized within the “Give Voice to the River Protection” project.

The “Sharing Experience” tour was conducted in 10 villages in Albania and Kosovo:

  • Zall-Gjoçaj, Mat;
  • Zhulat, Gjirokastra;
  • Gjorica, Bulqiza;
  • Gur i Bardhë, Dibër;
  • Vukël, Malësi e Madhe;
  • Picar, Gjirokastra;
  • Xhaferaj, Kukës;
  • Biti e Poshtme, Kosovo;
  • Bicaj, Kukës;
  • Madhesh, Mat.
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The hydropower plant in Madhesh village in Mat was planned without residents’s approval

++Social isolation from COVID-19 did not stop the construction company to continue with environmental permit procedures++

Madhesh, July 30, 2020. Plans for the construction of a hydropower plant in the Lunre river – a tributary to the Mat River, gathered residents of Madhesh village to discuss about options to stop this project, which affects their daily lives and future generations.

In a meeting with the representatives of EcoAlbania, they expressed their concern about this project and asked for the their help to oppose the hydropower plant. Based on the previous experience with other affected communities by the hydropower plants, Robert Shahini, project coordinator at EcoAlbania, shared with residents some important information about democratic and legal means to oppose this project and encouraged them to stay united and fight for the protection of their river and natural beauties of this area.

The Lunre river is located near Ulza Regional Natural Park and the Madhesh HPP will use the waters of the Lunre River above the Shkopet Lake dam. In the Preliminary EIA submitted by the company “ARM-Albania” it is written that all HPP facilities will be built outside protected areas, except the power line which will pass to the protected area “Ulza Lake”, while the residents say that the hydropower plant will damage the protected area.

They also say that they have not been informed about the public hearing, which was held only with the Mati’s municipality representatives and during isolation time from the Covid-19 pandemic on April. “There is no investment here, we will resist for our homes” said one of the residents. Residents are against this project, as they are aware of the impact that hydropower plants have, referring to the hydropower plant “Gurra” built in this area.

General Information:

The Lunre River and stream are the last tributaries of the Mat River that flow on its left side in front of the Shkopet hydropower dam. They generally have a south-north direction. The Lunre river basin is bounded on the east by the Terraja sream basin, on the south and southwest by the Hurdhaz river basin. The highest peak of the Lunre river basin is Skanderbeg Mountain on the south side at 1524 m above sea level.

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Representatives of the Administrative Unit Bicaj in Kukës stand against the hydropower plants

++ The approval for the construction of hydropower plants has not taken into account the opinion of the affected residents ++

Bicaj, 17 July 2020. The hydropower epidemic has not spared natural monuments and water resources in the Bicaj Administrative Unit in Kukës. Ongoing work on the construction of a hydropower plant inside Sheja’s Canyon and the devastating consequences are obvious.

Representatives of the affected villages in Bicaj municipality during the meeting regarding the HPP projects in the area.

The construction company has privatized the canyon and is continuing the work without obtaining the approval of the local government and residents. Residents are concerned about future plans to build another hydropower plant on the same river, which threatens the complete drain of the area’s water resources, leaving about 2,000 residents without water in the affected villages.

The mayors and representatives of the Nangë, Brataj, Mustafaj, Canaj, Bicaj villages, are against this hydropower plant and demand that the voice of the residents be heard. The representatives of the Bicaj Administrative Unit’s villages state that they have not been notified about the public hearing made by the construction company and have signed a petition for its opposition. The reaction against this project will be escalated by the residents following all democratic and legal ways with the support of the environmental organization EcoAlbania which is working for the protection of rivers in Albania.

The Kukës area is rich in biodiversity and numerous water resources, but at the same time one of the most sacrificed areas by hydropower projects. A large number of hydropower plants have been planned or constructed throughout the Kukës region, destroying protected areas and undermining the potential for tourism development in the area.

Details on the planned HEC Palushi project:

HPP Palushi is designed to use the waters of the Bicaj River, part of the Drini i Zi catchment basin, Kukës municipality, Kukës region. The catchment basin of the axis intake of the HEC Palushi is located on the right slope of the Drini i Zi River, next to the Bushtricë brook basin and the Lapaj Bridge. The axis intake of the Hec Palushi is located at 396 m and has a catchment area of ​​32 km2.

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Hydropower plants destroy the Lepenc River in Kosovo – residents disappointed by the authorities

Biti e Poshtme, Kosovo, 11 July 2020. Sharr National Park in Kosovo is facing the threat of drying up rivers due to the construction of several hydropower plants. Although residents have opposed these projects, their construction has advanced, in the Lepenc River. In a meeting with residents of Biti e Poshtme village, representatives of EcoAlbania, GAIA Kosovo and other local organizations talked about ways to stop these projects. EcoAlbania shared the organization’s experience with rivers in Albania, and the Vjosa River in particular. The meeting was broadcasted live on national television.

Currently, permits for the construction of six hydropower plants on the Lepenc River have been issued by the Energy Regulatory Office (ERO). Although residents have protested against the construction of hydropower plants on the Lepenc River, ERO has continued to issue permits for hydropower plants, and during the meeting moments the construction company was continuing to work on the riverbed.

According to residents, the construction of hydropower plants on the Lepenc river, will damage and degrade the environment. Residents are desperated over the fate of their river and asked for help to provide human resources specialized in legal issues. The Executive Director of EcoAlbania, expressed his readiness to help them with legal support from Albania, focused on the negative impacts that HPPs have on the environment. He shared with the residents the long experience with the Vjosa river, and described the current situation with HPPs in Albania and almost throughout all the Balkans.

General information: The Lepenc River is a river that gravitates into the Aegean Sea basin and is a tributary of the Vardar. Lepenci originates on the northern slopes of Sharr Mountain at Oshllaku at 2,212 m. Lepenc in the territory of Kosovo is 53 km long, the basin area is 607 km2, and the average annual flow is 7.9 m3 per second.

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