Bern Convention calls on the Albanian government to review the plan for building the Vlora airport in Narta Lagoon

Tirana October 19, 2021. The Bureau of the Permanent Committee of the Berne Convention, at the last meeting, called on the Albanian government to review the plans for the construction of the Vlora airport. The committee shared the deep concern regarding the plans for the urbanization of the Vjosë-Nartë protected area and, emphasizing the known natural values of this area, requested the implementation of a strong protection regime.

The issue of the Vlora airport project was included in the complaint previously filed by EcoAlbania on the expected negative impacts of the construction of hydropower plants on the Vjosë river, where the construction of the airport in Vjosë-Nartë is included as an imminent danger to the ecosystem of the Vjosë delta. . “Large development projects such as the airport and hydropower plants endanger the Vjosa valley, a unique ecosystem with rich biodiversity, so our efforts to preserve it are also strongly supported by international institutions such as the Permanent Committee in Bern. We, as a civil society, have long been seeking the declaration of the entire Vjosa valley as a national park, which would also include the Vjosa delta, part of which is the Narta lagoon,” said Olsi Nika, from EcoAlbania.

In February, about 40 national and international environmental organizations asked the government to cancel the project for the construction of Vlora International Airport in the Perennial Protected Landscape. “The Narta lagoon is one of the most important wetlands of Albania and the Mediterranean, and plans for its urbanization risk damaging its ecosystem irreversibly,” said Aleksandër Trajçe from PPNEA.

Narta Lagoon in the Vjosa river delta is being threatened by the government’s plans to build an airport. (c) A. Guri

The Permanent Commission of the Berne Convention has opened the case for hydropower plants in Vjosa since 2018, asking the Albanian government to immediately suspend the Pocem and Kalivac hydropower plants until the necessary strategic planning and the missing environmental assessments are done. While the attention given recently by the Bureau to the Vjosa delta reinforces the voice of environmental organizations concerned about this project.

“The Vjosë-Nartë protected landscape is one of the protected areas with exceptional biological diversity in Albania and without a doubt one of the most important areas in Europe from an ecological point of view. Vjosë-Narta serves as a migration corridor for many animals, especially for migratory birds. Precisely for this reason, it is globally recognized as an area with special values and is part of almost all international networks of areas of importance for nature conservation. This fact must be respected in the first place by the Albanian government itself to prevent the impacts of any development project that damages this ecosystem”, said Taulant Bino from AOS.

The Convention of the Council of Europe on the “Conservation of Wild Life and Natural Habitats” or as it is known briefly as the Berne Convention is a binding international legal instrument in the field of nature conservation, which covers most of the natural heritage of the European continent and extends to some African countries.

Albania ratified the Berne Convention in January 1999 and its implementation entered into force in May of the same year. Violation of this convention can face the country with diplomatic pressure as well as various sanctions that can be taken by the European Union or unilaterally by other countries that have ratified this convention.