The Local Community of Thirrë win the court case against HPPs

On February 24, the Administrative Court of the First Instance of Tirana decided to cancel the permit for the construction of the two HPPs and one water factory in the village of Thirrë Sang and Heb. The court’s decision marks another victory for environmental issues by protecting the environment threatened by illegal economic activities.

Since 2018 and until now, the efforts of Centre for Legal Empowerment (CLE), as the representative of the case, and the 166 plaintiffs living in the area, have been continuous with protests, court developments and public advocacy. Themain goal of the initiatives has been to protect this area and conserve the rich biodiversity, as well as the main watersource of the area with which the lives of the residents are closely connected.

CLE has been representing the case in court for two years now, continuously filing evidence, arguing, and supporting in law the reasons for opposing constructions and economic activities in the Krazhna source and the villages of Thirrë, Sang and Hebë, which would seriously damage the environment and the well-being of the residents of the area.

At the same time, the local community have developed a broad advocacy campaign with continuous protests developed by themselves. EcoAlbania has supported the local community for a long time, helping them to pursue this issue legally and publicly. 

In conclusion, the Administrative Court of the First Instance of Tirana appreciated these unstoppable efforts of the residents and lawyers, stopping the further damage to the environment. Thanks to the close cooperation between the actors and interest groups involved, who were brought together by the need to protect the environmental assets and the socio-economic rights, the local community triumphed.

Centre for Legal Empowerment highly appreciates the local community’s resistance, combined with the dedication of lawyers, paralegals, and activists, managed to produce a fair decision in favour of the local community interest. This decision is important in establishing practices for environmental protection and civil rights causes.

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Residents affected by hydropower plants across Albania protest against Government’s projects

++ Residents require cancellation of HPPs that have been awarded against their will ++

Local communities protesting in front of the Prime Minister Office. (c) Besjana Guri/ EcoAlbania

Tirana, July 6, 2019. Citizens from all over Albania have protested today against hydropower plants on their rivers. Residents of affected areas by HPP projects from north to south of the country came together in a protest in front of the Prime Minister’s office to raise their voice against the wave destruction on the Albanian rivers.

540 hydropower plants are planned to be built in the territory of Albania, a significant part of which in protected areas (around 61) and areas with high natural potential. These plans are often followed by ongoing conflicts and protests from affected communities throughout Albania. They risk losing their homes, farmland, drinking water, irrigation water supplies and landscapes inherited from generations. Despite the great impact on their lives, the most vulnerable communities are not aware of the hydropower plants that are planned in their yards, let alone being consulted.

The communities of Mirdita, Mat, Kukës, Dibra, Tropoja, Kelmendi, Vjosa, Librazhdi, Selenica, NGO-s and the activists asked to the government:

  • Revision of all the signed contracts for HPPs and transparency to the public.
  • Cancellation of all hydropower plants projects, which go against the will of the affected inhabitants, violate the natural integrity of protected areas and those with high natural potential.

This protest launched a series of protests for the protection of the Balkan rivers that will be organized in many Balkan countries on July 6-16. Thousands of people are affected by the tsunami of more than 3,000 dams planned in the Balkans. Many are struggling with continuous protests and are determined to defend their rivers, at all costs. “We give our life, but not our river” is the most common expression of their attitude.


“Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign aims to protect rivers with greatest natural values on the Balkan Peninsula. The campaign is coordinated by international NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur in co-operation with partner organizations in the Balkan countries. EcoAlbania is a partner organization in Albania.

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Europe is demolishing its dams to restore ecosystems

The Article “Europe is demolishing its dams to restore ecosystems”, which is published in the Nature Journal and written by Quirin Schiermeier is about the effort and effects of dam-removal, especially in Europe. Most scientists welcome the dam-removal trend but some call for research into potential ill effects. Hundreds of thousands of dams and weirs, most small and many no longer in use, fragment Europe’s rivers. The structures, some of them thousands of years old, have provided irrigation, energy and other benefits. But their presence also threatens the habitats of endemic fish and wildlife. Across much of Europe, rivers unfettered by artificial barriers are exceedingly rare. However, over the past 20–25 years, at least 5,000 small dams, weirs and culverts have been removed from rivers in France, Sweden, Finland, Spain and the United Kingdom, according to Dam Removal Europe. But restoration projects need to be monitored for negative effects, too, experts say. Decommissioning existing river barriers might mobilize toxic sediment, or affect buildings or bridges downstream. And existing dams could help prevent the spread of invasive species. But while old barriers are being removed, new dams are built elsewhere. Some 2,800 hydropower plants are currently being planned across the Balkans.

To read the full article click here.

Nature, europe is demoloshing its dams to restore ecosystems

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Bern Convention: Macedonian government is urged to halt construction of hydropower plants in national park

At the meeting of the Standing Committee, Council of Europe Strasbourg: Ana Colovic-Lesoska (Eco-sense) presents the Mavrovo case © Aleksandra Bujaroska

At the meeting of the Standing Committee, Council of Europe Strasbourg: Ana Colovic-Lesoska (Eco-sense) presents the Mavrovo case © Aleksandra Bujaroska

Plans for 17 hydropower plants throughout Macedonia’s Mavrovo National Park must be immediately suspended, so the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention ruled at its annual meeting on December, 5-8. The Standing Committee emphasizes its special concerns with regard to the still ongoing developments of small hydropower plants within the park.

The governing body of the European wildlife treaty has already expressed concerns about the irreversible impact of hydropower facilities on the unique ecosystem of the park two years ago. In 2015, the Bern Convention Standing Committee urged the Macedonian government to halt any further hydropower development until all impacts are analyzed in the form of a strategic environmental impact assessment.

Streams like this would be destroyed by HP projects inside Mavrovo NP © Theresa Schiller

Streams like this would be destroyed by HP projects inside Mavrovo NP © Theresa Schiller

Such projects should not be allowed in protected areas. The recovery of the ecosystem is impossible when the water regime is inconsistent or riverbeds are left to dry”, explains Ana Colovic Lesoska from the complainant Eko-svest, member of CEE Bankwatch Network in Macedonia. The Standing Committee’s 2015 recommendation also called on Skopje to complete the process of reconfirming Mavrovo’s status as a national park.

Following several years of campaigning by Macedonian and international environmental groups, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank dropped their funding for two large hydropower plants that had been planned in the park – Boskov Most and Lukovo Pole. Yet, according to a recent report by the government on implementation of the Standing Committee’s recommendation, a decision to formally suspend the two controversial projects is yet to be adopted. The report also suggests that, while the government does not intend to issue new concessions for smaller hydropower facilities within the national park, it also doesn’t take measures to stop the development of those projects for which concessions have already been approved.

The creeks' water is diverted through pipes, leaving the riverbed to dry. © Theresa Schiller

The creeks’ water is diverted through pipes, leaving the riverbed to dry. © Theresa Schiller

Given the Macedonian government’s foot dragging so far – it did not even send a single representative to last meeting – the Bern Convention’s Standing Committee now reiterate its call to suspend all hydropower development in the park. “Hydropower plants are inconsistent with biodiversity conservation and don’t belong in protected areas like the Mavrovo National Park“, says Theresa Schiller from EuroNatur.

The Standing Committee’s 2015 recommendation also called on Macedonian Government to complete the process of reconfirming Mavrovo’s status as a national park. But the draft Law on re-proclaiming the Mavrovo National Park prepared in 2015 first must be revised. “This law is in collision with the Bern Convention and the National Law on Nature. Instead of prioritising protection and promotion of biodiversity in Mavrovo, the law leaves the possibility for the construction of new hydropower plants on parks’ territory. The Government should amend the law in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations of the IUCN“, says Aleksandra Bujaroska from the Macedonian NGO “Front 21/42”.

Rare Balkan lynx needs protection in Mavrovo National Park
Additionally, during the meeting, the Committee decided to add the Balkan lynx to its list of strictly protected fauna species. A national symbol of Macedonia – the Balkan lynx – can only be found in its western part, mainly in Mavrovo National Park. The species is considered to be critically endangered, the estimated population in the wild consists of only about 30 mature individuals. Scientific data published earlier this year by the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) showed that the rare cat species is successfully breeding in Mavrovo, hence further emphasizing the need for careful protection and proper management of the national park.

Background information

  • This is a joint Press Release by EuroNatur, Eko-svest, Front 21/42, Bankwatch and Riverwatch
  • The campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” aims to protect the most valuable rivers in the Balkans. It is coordinated by the NGOs EuroNatur and Riverwatch and carried out jointly with partner organisations from the Balkan countries. In Macedonia with Eko-svest and Front 21/42.
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