A Kayak for Rama

The Prime Minister of Albania receives an unusual petition for the protection of the Vjosa – The Balkan Rivers Tour ends in Tirana

Tirana, Albania, May 20, 2016. Among the applause of hundreds of spectators and protesters from the Vjosa valley, mainly from the areas directly affected by the construction of the Pocem hydropower plant, kayakers from Albania, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the USA marched in their kayaks in the middle of the capital. One of them was Rok Rozman – initiator of the Balkan Rivers Tour and former Olympic athlete from Slovenia. Their destination was the office of the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, to deliver a special kayak to the Prime Minister. “Dear Edi Rama – stop the dam projects in Vjosa and create a National Park for the last wild river in Europe!” – was written on the kayak signed by more than 1,000 people. However, neither Edi Rama nor government representatives were ready to receive the petition. The police completely blocked the entrance. Rozman placed the kayak in front of the police cordon.

During the march with kayaks in the middle of the capital. (c) A. Husband

“This kayak is intended to give Vjosa and the inhabitants of the valley an additional voice. We don’t want a dam in Vjosa, but a national park. The Albanian government ignored our petition, but we will come again”, said Rok Rozman.

With the submission of the petition, the Tour of the Balkan Rivers comes to an end. For 35 days, kayakers from all over Europe paddled 23 rivers between Slovenia and Albania, to draw attention to the destruction that is threatening the rivers of the Balkans – first and foremost the Vjosa.

In a course of 270 kilometers – from the mountains of Pindi to the Adriatic Sea – the Vjosa still flows freely. However, the Albanian government has recently decided to build a large hydropower plant and has already given the concession to build it to a Turkish company. The “Pocem” project includes the construction of a 25 meter high dam, which will destroy one of the most ecologically valuable parts of the river.

“Darkness is approaching Vjosa. We call on the Prime Minister of Albania to stop the construction of dams and protect the Vjosa by declaring its entire course a national park. The government’s current plan to declare only the upper stream as a national park, blocking the lower stream with large dams is senseless”, said Gabriel Schëaderer, Director of EuroNatur during the protest in Tirana.

Kayakers from Albania, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the USA (c) A. Burr

Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the “Saving the blue heart of Europe” campaign by Riverwatch, said, “The Vjosa is a river of global importance. The least that the Albanian Government can do is to request an Environmental Impact Assessment Report according to EU standards. We ask her to set up a group of internationally recognized experts to carry out the necessary scientific studies.

Olsi Nika from EcoAlbania and coordinator of the campaign in Albania points out the fact that the majority of the inhabitants of the valley support the protection of Vjosa: “All the mayors of the municipalities of the valley support our request. They understand the potential that Vjosa has to offer in terms of ecotourism”.

“We want to preserve the last natural rivers from Slovenia to Albania and we make a strong appeal to decision-makers to protect Vjosa. We are calling a big NO to the dams in Vjosa”, said Martin Solar, director of WWF Adria, one of the supporting organizations of the Balkan Rivers Tour.

“Vjosa is the pearl of Europe’s rivers,” said Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the field “Saving the blue heart of Europe” from Riverwatch.

Additional information:

The protest was part of the Balkan River Tour: for 35 days, kayakers from different countries are paddling the most stunning and threatened rivers of the Balkans in order to draw attention to the inevitable tsunami of dams. Led by former Slovenian Olympian Rok Rozman, the tour started on April 16 in Slovenia’s Sava River and will end on May 20 in Tirana, Albania.

The Balkan River Tour is an activity organized as part of the “Saving the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, launched by EuroNatur and Riverwatch in order to protect the Balkan rivers from their inevitable destruction as a result of the development of hydropower plants. The Balkan Rivers Tour is an initiative of LeewayCollective, EuroNatur, Riverwatch and WFF Adria and supported by Patagonia, MavaFoundation and Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung.

Na ndiqni online

The web page: www.ecoalbania.org ; http://www.balkanriverstour.com and http://balkanrivers.net/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/balkanriverstour/?fref=nf

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/balkanriverstour/


Katharina Grund (EuroNatur), [email protected], +49 7732 9272 10

Cornelia Wieser (Riverwatch), [email protected], +43 650 4544784

OlsiNika – EcoAlbania: [email protected]+355 69 29 44 757

RokRozman (Leeway Collective), [email protected],   +386 51 421 303

Martin Šolar (WWF Adria), [email protected], +386 41 627 891


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