Joint press release from EuroNatur, RiverWatch and EcoAlbania
Tirana, Vienna, Radolfzell, April 14, 2016. Today the European Parliament criticized the Albanian Government on plans for the construction of hydropower plants and calls on it to consider protected areas and other sensitive natural areas, in particular national parks. In the Report of the Commission on Enlargement that was approved by the European Parliament in Brussels, the river Vjosa is mentioned in particular. The EP “calls on the Albanian Government to control the development of hydropower plants in environmentally sensitive areas, both in the Vjosa River and in protected areas to maintain the integrity of the existing national parks.” (Point 23 in the EU Enlargement Report).
The European Parliament has recommended the Albanian Government to review the plans for the construction of hydropower plants in Vjosa and its branches in Progres. The EU Report last year. However, contrary to this request, the Albanian Government has recently invited investors to build a large hydropower plant in Vjosa. Companies from all over the world were invited to apply for this concession until March 17, 2016. It is not yet known who the winner is, although it is likely to be the Turkish company that won the 8% bonus in July, 2015. “Tender opening for the construction of a new hydropower plant in Vjosa surprised us, since Prime Minister Rama had also suggested the protection of this unique river. Furthermore, no in-depth study has been done according to internationally recognized standards regarding the impact this project would have on nature,” says Gabriel Schwaderer, director of the Nature Conservation Foundation, EuroNaur.
Furthermore, the EU calls on Albania to improve the standards of Environmental Impact Assessment Reports and to involve and inform the public more in the planning process. “This positioning of the European Parliament supports our work in Albania. However, it is important that the Albanian Government does not ignore these requests. Instead of the planned hydropower plants, we demand the declaration of the entire Vjosa as a national park, thus declaring the first Wild River Park in Europe”, says Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the campaign “Save the blue heart of Europe”. This vision is also supported by the local community. Almost all mayors and municipalities have signed a petition to declare the Vjosa valley a National Park and against the construction of hydropower plants. Vjosa is a treasure for all of Europe.
The Vjosa is the last wild river in Europe excluding Russia. From its source in the Pindis Mountains in Greece to its mouth in the Adriatic Sea it flows free and untouched. In some areas the river bed reaches more than 2 km in width. Scientifically, this river is almost unexplored. However, the government plans to build dams in the area with higher ecological values. “The messages of the European Parliament’s latest Resolution regarding the Vjosa River repeatedly show that international concern is growing. Vjosa is not only a natural asset of Albania but a treasure in the natural heritage of the European family where we intend to integrate”, says Olsi Nika, Director of EcoAlbania.
- The exact wording of the position of the European Parliament regarding the development of hydropower plants in Albania: Point 23. “Calls on the Albanian Government to control the development of hydropower plants in environmentally sensitive areas, both in the Vjosa River and in protected areas in order to maintain the integrity of existing national parks; recommends improving the quality of Environmental Impact reports, which would allow for the consideration of EU standards set out in the Birds and Habitats Directives as well as the Water Framework Directive; encourages the Albanian Government to increase transparency through participation public and consultations for planned projects.”
- About the “Save Europe’s Blue Heart” campaign: The hydropower plants on the Vjosa River are just one wave of the tsunami of dams that are endangering the rivers of the Balkans. About 2,700 new hydropower plants are planned between Slovenia and Albania. To fight this wave of destruction, EuroNatur and RiverWatch have started the campaign “Saving the blue heart of Europe” in cooperation with local partners in the respective Balkan countries. More information can be found here: www.balkanrivers.net
Ulrich Eichelmann – Riverwatch: [email protected] | +43 676 6621512
Katharina Grund – EuroNatur: [email protected] | + 49 7732 92 72-10
Olsi Nika – EcoAlbania: [email protected] | +355 69 29 44 757