Press Conference

The Vjosa River at a Crossroad – Dam Tsunami or National Park

Jonit press release by EcoAlbania, Euronatur and Riverwatch

NGOs uncover: 33 hydro-power plants projected ++ Austrian and Italian companies involved ++ New initiative supports national park idea

Tirana, Vienna, Radolfzell, March 12, 2015. Today, the international NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur, together with their local partner EcoAlbania, are presenting a paper, which for the first time reveals the full extent of the threat to the Vjosa catchment area. According to this paper, the last big wild river of Europe is at risk of complete destruction. A total of 33 hydropower plants are projected along the Vjosa and its tributaries, six of which in Greece (where the Vjosa is called Aóos) and 27 in Albania. However, resistance against these projects is increasing and an alternative idea is enjoying more and more popularity: the establishment of a Vjosa National Park. A new Albanian initiative is supporting this vision.


Press Conference in Tirana © E.Nuna

The Vjosa in the South of Albania is one of the last intact wild rivers in Europe. Along its course of 270 kilometers it is free flowing – in some areas the riverbed expands over more than 2 km in width – and its tributaries are largely untouched as well. This is without par in Europe.

However, this treasure could soon be spoiled. An extensive analysis of the NGOs revealed that, in addition to the eight projected hydropower plants along the Vjosa, virtually all its tributaries are planned to be impounded and diverted. Three projects are already under construction. “If the tributaries are impounded, ultimately, the Vjosa will be destroyed as well. It is like cutting all the branches of a tree – the entire tree will ultimately die”, so Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch, coordinator of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign.

So far, Austrian and Italian companies are involved in the construction of the hydropower plants. One of them is the Austrian corporation ENSO Hydro. Financed by the Development Bank of Austria and the World Bank subsidiary IFC the river Langarica is being diverted and drained in midst of the Fir of Hotova National Park.

Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur says: “We need to stop the dam tsunami along the entire Vjosa in order to save this European natural treasure. Together with local communities, we want to achieve the establishment of a national park instead – for the benefit of nature but also for the people of the Vjosa valley and their potential for sustainable socio-economic development in the future. For that, however, it needs to be kept free from dams”.

In order to support this idea, a new initiative was established in Albania, the “Friends of Vjosa” initiative. “We invite everyone to join our initiative. We need to promote the beauty and the value of the Vjosa and inform people about the threat it is facing. Many don’t even know about it”, so Olsi Nika, CEO of the Albanian environmental NGO EcoAlbania. Some politicians, artists and scientists have already joined the initiative. In May, a Vjosa Day will be held in Tirana, for which residents of the Vjosa valley will travel to the capital in order to promote the beauty and diversity of their river. They will express their clear support for a Vjosa National Park.

Background information:

The campaign to protect the Vjosa River is part of the international campaign to save the most valuable rivers on the Balkan Peninsula. More than 630 new hydropower plants are currently projected between Slovenia to Albania. In order to counteract this spate of destruction, “EuroNatur” and “RiverWatch” have launched the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign in cooperation with local partner in the respective Balkan countries.

Further Information

Cornelia Wieser – Riverwatch [email protected] | 0043 650 4544784

Katharina Grund – EuroNatur [email protected] | 0049 7732 927210

Besjana Guri – EcoAlbania | [email protected] 00355 692954214


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Press conference: Vjosa National Park – No Dams

Environmental groups present the idea of a national park for Vjosa

Qesarat,  08 May 2014

On the islands of the Albanian Vjosa river near the village of Qesarat, an unusual event took place today, representatives of national and international environmental groups together with people from local communities and local businesses came together to propose an alternative plan for Europe´s last big wild river – the idea of a Vjosa National Park.

Press conference in Vjosa River © A.Guri

We are here to announce our wish to establish a Vjosa National Park. We want to protect this river for the benefit of nature and local communities, said Kujtim Mersini, Chairman of PPNEA.

The Vjosa River is one of Europe’s last living wild rivers. Along its entire course of over 270 kilometers – from its source in the Greek mountains to the Adriatic Sea – it is untamed and free flowing. Together with its tributaries, the Vjosa provides a dynamic, near-natural ecosystem that is without par in Europe. However, this natural treasure is at great risk. The Albanian government intends to have eight large dams built on the Vjosa and many smaller ones are projected along its tributaries.

“The Vjosa is of an incredible importance for the biodiversity, especially for the fish, molluscs and other species. But on the other hand we must learn much more about its processes and biodiversity”, said Spas Shumka, one of Albania´s scientists community.

Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the Balkan rivers campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” and CEO of the NGO Riverwatch adds: “For many people in Albania this might be just a normal river – but from an international perspective the Vjosa is something extraordinary. Even most international freshwater experts still have no idea that a river like this is still existing in Europe. Its like the discovery of a species that was believed to be extinct”.

A Vjosa National Park would:

–    protect the wildlife and the ecological processes of the last big wild river in Europe

–    improve the income of local communities through increasing eco-tourism

–    create sustainable jobs in the region since the park needs Rangers,  a managed National Park centeretc

–    support the local business: tourists from all over Europe may come go hiking, rafting, fishing. Local companies would benefit.

–    increase the scientific knowledge: even internationally little is known about dynamics of a large wild river. Scientists from Albania as well as from all over the world could come and study the Vjosa.

–    Increase the international reputation of Albania´s landscape (besides beaches and mountains)

“We live with the river. We want the Vjosa to stay alive and we are hopeful that our communities would benefit from a national park. Dams create no jobs for our people, a national park would do so. We are supporting the idea of a national park”, says Hysni Çela – mayor of Qesarat.

For further information: | | |

– Olsi Nika – EcoAlbania | [email protected]

– Besjana Guri – EcoAlbania | [email protected]

– Ulrich Eichelmann – Riverwatch | [email protected]

– Theresa Schiller – EuroNatur | [email protected]

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