Environmental NGOs present the idea of a National Park for the last wild river in Europe.
On one of the islands of the Vjosa river, near the village of Qesarat in Tepelena, an unusual event took place. Representatives from national and international environmental organizations, together with representatives of the local government of Vjosa from Përmeti to Qesarat, representatives of the Ministry of Environment, national and international media, residents of local communities and businesses have come together to propose an alternative plan for the river the last great wild of Europe, the idea of declaring a National Park along the entire length of the Vjosa River.
“We are here to unveil the idea of declaring the Vjosa River – National Park. We want to protect this river for the benefit of nature and the local community”, says Kujtim Mersini, Chairman of PPNEA.
The area was chosen not only for its impressive beauty, but also for the fact that this valley is threatened by flooding, if the Kalivaç hydropower plant will be completed, the construction of which was started by an Italian company but was interrupted for several years.
“This gives us the opportunity to think of a better idea for Vjosa and the people around her. We have to protect the river in the best possible way – and this way is to grant the National Park status to this watershed”, says Kujtim Mersini.
The Vjosa River flows unaffected from its source in the mountains, all the way to the Adriatic Sea. It is the last “wild” river of this size in Europe. From its entire length of 270 km, Vjosa flows freely as an “untamed” river. However, there are plans to turn the Vjosa into a chain of dams. Eight such and many more in its branches are planned in the Albanian area. The construction of even one of them would irreversibly destroy this entire river ecosystem of incomparable value. It is exactly this untouched nature that makes Vjosa so special, so unique.
“Vjosa is of extraordinary importance from the point of view of biodiversity, especially for types of fish, molluscs and other species. But on the other hand, we need to learn much more about ecological processes and its biodiversity” – says Spase Shumka, one of the well-known experts in this field. He also criticizes plans for the construction of hydroelectric plants:
“These projects are based on very poor scientific data. No assessment is based on contemporary standards. Dams can lead to ecological disasters” – adds Spase Shumka.
Ulrich Eichelmann, the coordinator of the Balkan Rivers Campaign “Saving the Blue Heart of Europe” from the Riverwatch organization says: “For many Albanians, the Vjosa may seem just an ordinary river, but from an international perspective, the Vjosa is something unique. Even some world-renowned freshwater experts still have no idea that such a river exists in Europe. This is like discovering a species that was thought to be extinct until now. The participants of the press conference ask the Albanian Government to declare Vjosa a National Park. The declaration of Vjosa National Park will be an added value not only for Albanians and Europe, but also for the whole world.
The announcement of the National Park Year will:
– protect the wildlife and ecological processes of Europe’s last wild river
– improve the income of local communities through the growth of eco-tourism
–create stable employment in the area since the park requires guards, a center for its management, etc.
-support local business: tourists from all over Europe can visit Vjosa for various recreational activities.
-increases scientific knowledge regarding the dynamics of large wild rivers, which are little known even at the international level. Scientists from Albania and all over the world will come to study in this real laboratory in nature.
–increases the international reputation of Albania’s landscape, apart from the beaches and mountains that are already known.
“We all live with the river. We want Vjosa to remain alive and we are full of hope that our communities will benefit from this park. The construction of HPPs does not provide sustainable employment for us, while the creation of a national park provides much more than just employment. Based on our vision for the sustainable development of the area, we will support the idea of a national park” – says Hysni Çela, Mayor of Qesarat Municipality.
For more information:
– Olsi Nika – EcoAlbania [email protected]
– Besjana Guri – EcoAlbania [email protected]
– Ulrich Eichelmann – Riverwatch [email protected]
– Theresa Schiller – EuroNatur [email protected]