++The hydroelectric project on the last wild river in Europe is planned to be built without a proper Environmental Impact Assessment or public participation++Legal precedent for the rule of law in Albania++
Tirana, Vienna, Radolfzell, December 2, 2016. Plans to destroy Vjosa are already being challenged in court. Today, the organizations for the protection of the environment EcoAlbania, Riverwatch and EuroNatur, as well as 38 affected residents, opened the judicial process in the Administrative Court against the construction of the Pocem hydropower plant in Vjosë. The plaintiffs demand the suspension of any decision or promise for this hydropower plant, which is planned to be built by the merger of the two Turkish companies that won the concession. “We are determined to defend this request in all links of the justice system. It is about the protection of one of the most valuable natural areas not only in Albania but in all of Europe”, says Olsi Nika, coordinator of the campaign “Saving the blue heart of Europe” from EcoAlbania.
The reasons for this lawsuit are many. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) accepted by the relevant institutions is completely inappropriate, where more than 60% of the EIA is plagiarized, copied from other projects, while the flora and fauna assessments are missing. Professor Schiemer from Vienna, who has analyzed this EIA report, together with other colleagues from Albania, Germany and Austria confirms: “I have never seen such a weak EIA before. Everything is a farce. The EIA should be repeated and drafted according to international standards.” In the last Progress Report of the European Commission for Albania, the criticisms for the weak level of EIA reports were clear.
Another reason on which this lawsuit is based is the fact that the residents of the villages of Kutë, Çorrush, Sevaster, Shkozë, Golimbas, Mazhar, etc., who are affected by the Pocem HPP project, have not been informed. In the village of Kuta alone, most of the agricultural lands and olive groves will be flooded by the 2,400-hectare HPP reservoir, and 90 people will be forced to move. Although none of the affected residents were notified, a public consultation on this project was held in the city of Fier where no participant was a resident of the affected areas.
In fact, such a procedure is not an exception, but it is what usually happens in Albania. Therefore, this lawsuit is necessary not only for the future of Vjosa and its inhabitants, but also for the protection of nature and the establishment of justice in Albania in general. Lawyer Vladimir Meçi, who represents the plaintiffs in this process, confirms: “Our laws are not weak, but they are often ignored by investors, authorities and politicians. This disregard must stop before we destroy all the natural resources of the country. The Poçem case is a touchstone for the rule of law in Albania.”
Vjosa is the last wild river in Europe. It flows untouched through deep gorges, marshes and islands for about 270 km from the Pindi Mountains to the Adriatic Sea. The Albanian government and Prime Minister Edi Rama has given the green light to the Turkish company for the construction of the Pocem hydropower plant, which is planned to be built in the most ecologically rich part of the Vjosa river.
The “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign aims to protect the rivers with the greatest natural values in the Balkan peninsula. The campaign is coordinated by the international NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur in cooperation with partner organizations in the Balkan countries
Ulrich Eichelmann-Riverwatch [email protected] +43 676 66 21 512
Olsi Nika – EcoAlbania [email protected] +355 69 29 44 757
Vladimir Meçi, Avokati i çështjes [email protected]