Top Channel: Hydropower plants above Valbona

Chronicle from Fiks Fare / Top Channel

In the Valbona river, an area protected with the status of a National Park, 11 concessional permits have been granted for the construction of 11 Hydropower plants with small production capacities. The permits were granted in 2008 and 2009, as well as a part of them in 2013. At that time, the idea of turning Albania into an energy superpower prevailed, and 520 concessionary permits were granted for the construction of HPPs in many rivers of the country.

Interview the residents of the area

They say that what they have heard is that they have information about the construction of 14 HPPs. If the HPPs are built, Valbona will be exhausted and tourism will come to an end. Valbona is not a deep river, suitable for hydropower plants. People come here for the river. The river will dry up because HEC after HEC will have an impact.

There are three problems in the construction of HPPs, says Katerina, the American who has been living in Valbona for 7 years: The problem with the environment, the problem with the economy and the problem of bad governance. Since the permits for these HPPs are not regular. This needs public consultation, which has not been done. 14 combined HPPs is a giant project, the river will not be seen and large poles will be built for energy, we will return to an industrial country.

Interview with the headman of the village, Kol Gjoni.

He says that in a very short time, tourism in Valbona has taken off. In all the advertisements made to the country by the tourist operators or by the state itself, the river is at the center and Valbona without the river has no meaning. Tourism income is higher than energy income. The permit was granted in 2013, but we found out only 2 months ago. We were not asked as a community. He accepts the fact that the list includes the name of a dead person, who is assumed to have signed agreeing to the construction of HPPs.

Interview with the President of the Tourist Association, Valbona Alfred Selimi

He says that 40 to 50 thousand tourists visited Valbona in 2015. Their greatest interest is in virgin nature. All of Tropoja benefits from tourism. 95 percent of the people here live on tourism, otherwise the area would be destroyed. Valbona keeps Tropoja alive.

Interview with the Deputy Mayor of Tropoja Municipality, Kasmet Ponari.

He shows that at the time when permits were given for hydropower plants, Valbona belonged to the municipality of Margegajve. Not sure if the community was asked or not. The profit brought by the construction of hydropower plants goes to a certain group of individuals, while the one brought by tourism is for everyone. When asked what the local government has done about this, he replied that he found out about the construction of the H’s a month or so ago, that it was done in secret and not directly.

Interview Besjana Guri Environmental defender

It shows that the HPP epidemic has affected many rivers in the country, including Valbona. 520 concessionary permits have been granted for the construction of hydropower plants in many rivers of the country. Valbona is a protected area of the second category and at the same time a national park. In such areas, it is not allowed by law to build any hydropower plant. The construction of HPPs would bring deforestation and immediate impact on the creatures that live in this ecosystem.

Interview Lavdosh Feruni Environmental Activist

He says that the fact that the community is against this construction means a lot. Who is that country that will not become an industrial country? The community must also consider their economic and spiritual connection with the environment. Decision-makers must understand that we are dealing with a deterioration of the community’s livelihood if this ecosystem is denatured.

Return letter from the Ministry of Economy and Energy. It turns out that 3 concession contracts have been awarded which include the construction of several HPPs in the Valbona area. All three concession contracts were signed and approved during the time of the Democratic Party’s government. They were signed respectively by Genc Ruli and Eno Bozdo respectively in the capacity of Minister and Deputy. Minister of Economy, Trade and Energy. One of the concessionary contracts received a construction permit from KKT in 2012. The second contract received a construction permit from KKT in 2014, while the third contract still does not have a construction permit approved by KKT.

Interview Director of protected areas Zamir Dedej

He says that during the time of the previous government, it was planned for Albania to turn into an energy superpower, now a lot of work is needed for everything to recover. It shows that the environmental permits of these HPPs expired in 2013, since most of the contracts were signed in July 2013.

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