Press release by EcoAlbania
Kutë, Mallakstër, February 15th, 2017. During the open meeting with the local community, organized by EcoAlbania in the Kutë, the Swiss Ambassador in Albania, Mr. Christoph Graf, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Albania, Mr. Claus Neukirch and the expert on issues of direct democracy, Mr. Andreas Gross, together with the Mayor, Mr. Agron Kapllanaj, were interested in the initiative taken by the Government regarding the construction of Poçem hydropower plant.
“The Vjosa case is a complex issue that involves not only environmental problematics but also to the functioning of democracy and the rule of law” stressed Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania. He also highlighted the lack of transparency throughout the procedure followed so far by the Albanian government by not informing the affected community and denying the right to be part of decision-making process.
During the conversation with the diplomats, the local people stayed against the construction of hydropower. According to them, its construction could cause flooding of agricultural land they have as the basis for their living.
“Agricultural land is the only asset which we can feed our families” – said the residents. They said unanimously that the hydropower plant means inevitable migration from the land of their ancestors, something they were determined not to accept.
“We live here for centuries and here we have the graves of our ancestors. The destruction of our lands and environmental catastrophe that our government is preparing, is unacceptable “- said Dilaver Murataj, resident of the village Kutë.
Moreover, they claimed that the plan to build the power plant was never consulted with them. In addition no one had submitted a project, nobody had organized a public meeting or debate, either from central government or by companies interested in the construction of HPP. This was also confirmed by the mayor Mallakastra, while in his speech, he pointed declared: “As local government, we have never officially been notified regarding the construction of Poçemi HPP. What we have done so far is that we have officially forwarded to the central government in Tirana, the community concerns regarding this project, but have not yet received any response”
In his speech Ambassador Graff, he was surprised of the fact that residents have no information about Poçem HPP and encouraged them to use all democratic means in order to make their voices heard.
After the meeting in Kutë, participants visited the Poçem Bridge on the Vjosa River, where potentially the dam of the hydropower is planned to be built. Representatives of EcoAlbania explained to them the environmental impact that will have the construction of the hydropower plant on the Vjosa River, which is considered rare in the European continent due to its high natural integrity.