By Prof. Aleko Miho / FSHN, UT
On April 15, 2016, the European Parliament in the Resolution for our country calls on the Albanian Government “to control the development of hydropower plants in environmentally sensitive areas, both in the Vjosë River and in protected areas, in order to maintain the integrity of the existing national parks.” (Item 23). In the same place, it recommends ‘improving the quality of Environmental Impact Assessment reports (EIAs); this would allow the implementation of the EU standards given in the Birds and Habitats Directives, as well as in the Water Framework Directive (WFD)’. The resolution also urges our Government to ‘increase transparency through public participation and through consultations for all planned projects’.
This is the second Resolution that examines the issue of HPPs in Albania and especially in Vjosa. A year ago, in April 2015, the EP asked the Government to “abandon the plans for the construction of HPPs along the Vjosa River and its tributaries, because these projects will damage the last wild river in Europe and its ecosystems natural’.
These two Resolutions constitute an alarm bell for Albania regarding the attitude towards nature and towards rivers in particular.
Despite some protective measures in recent years, the importance of environmental issues in the Albanian atmosphere, both state and private, is still little understood. The thirst for rapid development and instant riches often blinds our eyes and obscures our path! Fortunately it happens that this rush comes back to us with costs, even quite heavy and not repairable.
I must emphasize that the protection of nature and biodiversity is not a simple request of environmental experts or environmentalists, or of international factors, but a constitutional obligation and the laws stemming from it. In Article 59 of the Constitution, it is sanctioned that the Albanian State must aim “for the rational use of forests, waters, pastures and other natural resources on the basis of the principle of sustainable development” (Point dh).
Albania is not a country isolated from the world, but it is a party to many international organizations, many conventions, including those that are interested in environmental issues. Our country cooperates closely with the European Union, where the fulfillment of certain standards are very important.
As a mainly mountainous country, but also coastal at the same time, Albania stands out for its high biodiversity; rivers are no exception here. The natural state and biodiversity values of Albanian rivers are considered to be among the highest in the Balkans. Of the over 3100 km of river flow that Albania has in total, about 2200 km (that is, over 70%) have a high degree of conservation, are almost untouched, including their marshy areas or river deltas. Here you can see the rivers in the Alps, such as Valbona, Shala, Cemi, while in the south you can see the Vjosë River with its branches, Langaricë, Bënçë, Kardhiq, etc.
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