Valbona’s community protest against HPP-s in Valbona

Bajram Curri, Tirana, New York,  April 11th , hundreds of local community, joined by supporters from all over Albania gathered at the Museum, in front of the statue of Bajram Curri to protest the construction of 14 hydropower plants along 30 km of the Valbona River.  This is the first public action of a campaign started by local people and supported by National and International NGOs, to protest the destruction of one of Albania’s most precious and best-loved natural areas, and one of Albania’s most popular tourism destination.

Proteste-Valbona-ecoalbaniaNine of the 14 hydro-powers fall on just 20km of the Valbona River which are inside of Valbona National Park, an IUCN Level II protected area since 1996, and the keystone of the National Park of the Albanian Alps which is due to be instituted this year, creating one of the largest protected areas in the Balkans.

Local people object to the Plants for 3 major reasons:

1) On an environmental basis, the plants will destroy the area, putting most of the river and several of its tributaries into large 2.5-3m tubes. This will not only cause a massive and irreversible damage for the river, but it will destroy much of the surrounding landscapes.

Valbona-Qendra EDEN

2) On an economic level, the conversion of one of Europe’s most pristine landscapes into an industrial zone will destroy the burgeoning tourism industry.  The flow of the river, some 3m3/s during much of the year, cannot generate power sales which will compensate the loss of tourism income, and will not in any meaningful way contribute to the national economy.  The plants themselves will provide no long-term employment or financial benefit to the local community.

3) There is widespread outrage at the manner in which the projects have ignored or circumvented Albanian law, failing to conduct genuine public consultations, instead submitting short lists of 12-20 signatures the majority of which are either fraudulent, or belong to employees and relatives of the companies involved in this project. Their valuations show no depth study of the biodiversity of the area, ignoring its status as a Protected Area.  That these documents, which do not stand up to any examination, should have been accepted by the responsible agencies as adequate is a scandal of national proportions, and seriously calls into question the competency of government officials.  Although Management and Zoning plans for the Protected Area have been prepared which would clarify the legal protection of the area, their ratification has been blocked to date by the Ministry of Energy.

We ask to the Al Government to stop these HPP-s in Valbona and invest more in the tourism and agricultural development of the National Park.

Valbona-New YorkThe Bajram Curri Demonstration and its simultaneous Protest in Tirana and New York aim to draw public attention to the situation, to hand out as much information as possible and to raise public awareness. A petition for the deliberative institutions by the protesters will be sent to the local government. In the meantime, since learning of the project plans in January 2016, concerned local people working with a coalition of National and International NGOs have rushed to collect documentation, filing official Administrative Appeals.  Should these appeals fail to be effective, lawsuits will be filed, in a historic precedent for Albania.


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Friends of Vjosa against the hydropower plants in Vjosa

New concession on Vjosa- Poçem HHP

Tirana February 5th, 2016 The “Friends of Vjosa” and “Protecting Rivers” groups and civil society activists protested today in front of the Pyramid in Tirana, to oppose the government’s decision for giving the concession of the Poçem hydropower plant in the Vjosa River.

ProtestIn the official bulletin of the National Public Procurement Agency was published on February 1st  the opening of proceedings for a 35-years concession on the construction of the Poçem hydropower plant, downstream of the Vjosa River. While previously, on July 29th 2015, the Government approved the unsolicited request from the Turkish company Çinar-San to build this HPP. This company has acquired the right to a bonus of 8%, even though it is a company with modest capacity and no experience in the construction and management of the hydropower plants, or energy in general.

During the electoral campaign for local elections on June 2015, the Prime Minister Rama has responded positively to the request of the residents of Vjosa Valley to declare the Vjosa National Park, promising that: “We will transform Vjosa Valley into a National Park to stop “barbarism” by hydropower plants and develop tourism, economy, agriculture, strengthen household economy by increasing the number of visitors to this great park of Vjosa.”

But apparently, the “barbarism” on the Vjosa River- the blue heart of Europe. Unfortunately continues to destroy irreversibly one of the most valuable national and European natural heritage.

This is an arbitrary decision ignoring the clear messages from the EU, community, experts and representatives of civil society in Albania and Europe,” says Olsi Nika, representative of EcoAlbania and coordinator of the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe .”

The battle for Vjosa River is only a national issue but also a European one, as a unique ecosystem in the entire continent.

The construction of Poçem HPP would kill the idea for the first Wild River National Park in Europe and it will undermine the economic development and the future of the Vjosa valley.

We demand today:

    1. The cancellation of all hydropower plant concessions that are planned or are under construction on the Vjosa River and its tributaries.

    1. The proclamation of the entire Vjosa Valley a National Park, which would be the first Wild River National Park in Europe and it support economic development of the entire valley.

  1. To be taken in consideration the demand for a 3-years moratorium on hydropower plants on the all Albanian rivers, which would give to the experts and decision-makers enough time to evaluate in a scientific and rational way the benefits and losses from the construction of these hydropower plants.
  2. The drafting of a National Master Plan that would define, the “go” and “non go” areas where the hydropower plants should or should not be built.

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