All against hydropower plants in Valbona
Valbona May 8, 2016. The Balkan Rivers Tour arrived today in the valley of Valbona, to continue the journey started 23 days ago in Slovenia. Kayakers and nature admirers from all over Europe have described over 16 rivers in different countries of the Balkans, to make the public aware of the importance of preserving these natural gems.
Valbona Valley is one of the most impressive valleys in Albania, with very rich biodiversity and one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. The Valbona River constitutes an extraordinary natural ecosystem, sheltering many species of coffee and threatened plants. However, in only the first 30 km of the river, 14 hydropower plants are planned to be built, questioning the nature and path of sustainable development that this area has embarked on.
“This is our day to focus international attention on the threat from HPPs in Northern Albania, in Valbona, Deçan, Rugove and Skavicë. This morning, those present had the opportunity to try kayaking or rafting and express their willingness to engage more in the protection of Valbona”, says Catherine Bohne, leader of the campaign for the protection of Valbona.
Residents of the Valbona valley and the city of Bajram Curri, who have joined the Balkan Rivers Tour, have protested against the construction of hydropower plants and say they will escalate the protests, showing their determination until the goal is reached. “We will keep Valbona free, clean, as we are used to seeing it. This is a double conflict; with this fabulous nature but also with the people who have historically connected their lives with this valley” said Islam Lauka, former ambassador of Albania in Kosovo.
The next stop will be the Osum River and the tour will conclude with the grand finale at the Vjosa River from May 13-18. “We are happy that we managed to organize such a great activity for the protection of rivers in the entire Balkans and that the first port of call for the Tour of the Balkan Rivers in Albania is exactly Valbona. The construction of HPPs in protected and highly sensitive areas is unacceptable as the damage they cause to these ecosystems is irreparable,” says Olsi Nika from EcoAlbania, coordinator of the “Save the blue heart of Europe” campaign.
The reason for declaring protected areas is to preserve nature and as such protected areas, especially National Parks, must stay without hydropower plants”, says Theresa Schiller, coordinator of the Campaign “Save the blue heart of Europe” from the EuroNatur Foundation.
The kayakers will submit a separate petition requesting the protection of Vjosa, the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama on May 20. Vjosa is the last, “wild” river in Europe, in which hydropower projects are also planned.
The Balkan River Tour is an activity organized within the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, which was initiated by “EuroNatur” and “RiverWatch” in order to protect the Balkan rivers from destruction through uncontrolled development. construction of hydropower plants. The Balkan River Tour is a joint initiative of the Leeway Collective, EuroNatur, Riverwatch and WWF Adria supported by Patagonia, the Mava Foundation and the Manfred-Hermsen Foundation.