Albania steps up efforts to get UNESCO protection for Lake Ohrid

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 23, 2016 11:33

Albania steps up efforts to get UNESCO protection for Lake Ohrid

Story Highlights

  • Sinisa Sosum, a UNESCO Venice official, is optimistic the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Albanian part could be granted UNESCO's protection by 2019 as the country has made progress by demolishing dozens of buildings by the lake

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TIRANA, Dec. 21 – Albania’s part of lake Ohrid could join that of neighboring Macedonia as a UNESCO World Heritage site in the next couple of years as authorities have stepped up efforts to protect the Pogradec Lake in southeastern Albania.

Sinisa Sosum, a UNESCO Venice official, is optimistic the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Albanian part could be granted UNESCO’s protection by 2019 as the country has made progress by demolishing dozens of buildings by the lake.

Since 2014, Albania has been part of an EU-funded project with Macedonia aimed at improving the transboundary cooperation and management effectiveness for the protection of the natural and cultural heritage in Lake Ohrid.

“Albania is strongly headed to this project and would not have joined this project if it doesn’t want to protect Lake Ohrid on their territory,” Sinisa Sesum said at a recent event held in Struga.

However, Oliver Avramoski, a project officer with the Protected Areas at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, warned the extension of the road following the demolition of buildings in the Lin-Pogradec area still poses a threat to the lake’s protection.

Back in 2012, an advisory scoping mission identified unplanned urban development, waste water and solid waste disposal, natural habitat alteration, destruction and depletion of natural resources as the key threats to extending Albania’s part of Lake Ohrid under UESCO protection.

The Lake Ohrid region is home to one of the world’s oldest lakes and is one of the most unique sources of biodiversity in Europe. The convergence of distinctive natural values with the quality and diversity of its cultural, material and spiritual heritage makes this region truly unique.

Two-thirds of Lake Ohrid located in Macedonia has already been inscribed on the World Heritage List but the integrity of this World Heritage property would be significantly reinforced by extending it to the remaining one-third of Lake Ohrid located in Albania, says UNESCO.

“The Lake Ohrid region is home to nearly 160,000 people, with more than 52,000 residing in Albania. The Ohrid Lake is extraordinary with the values it has. It is one of the oldest lakes in the world. It is isolated by hills and mountains and has a very rich fauna and flora,” Holta Copani, the head of Albania’s National Agency of Protected Areas (NAPA), says in a UNESCO video.

Alexandra Fiebig, a UNESCO project officer, says a project is currently supporting the national authorities of Albania to prepare an extension file to also inscribe the Albanian part on the World Heritage List.

“Overall the project promotes an integrated approach, but sustainable tourism certainly plays a major role in this,” she says.

The UNESCO inscription leading to increased number of tourists would benefit both local guesthouse owners and farmers.

“I live in Tushemisht, Pogradec and I run a family business. We have four rooms that we rent during the summer vacations and in winter for different vacationers. If there is regional development for tourism, it would positively influence our family business,” says Elvira Taci, a guesthouse owner in Tueshemisht.

Ilir Hoxhallari, a farmer in Alarup village says “If tourism expands, we will have more opportunities to sell many more of the products that we cultivate in our agricultural land. For that reason, I think that tourism should be a priority for all of us. Not just for hotels and restaurants, but also for us as farmers.”

“If we will have cooperation among Ohrid, Struga and Pogradec and cooperation between local and central governments and with private entrepreneurship and foreign foundations, then I think we can make something good and attractive,” says Manushaqe Kromollaria of the Ohrid Development Association.

Albanian part of Lake Ohrid

Situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid, the town of Pogradec, southeastern Albania, is a city with an ancient history and numerous cultural, geological and natural values. Based on archaeological findings (ceramics) an Illyrian settlement existed on the hill in north-west of the city in the 5th century BC and was then fortified in the 4th century BC, the Albanian government said in its 2011 bid for Lake Ohrid’s extension.

The city of Pogradec and its historic-cultural region are located in a natural setting of exceptional beauty, while its historical centre represents an example of 19th-20th century Albanian vernacular architecture. Even though with a small area, its old typical streets and houses bear the values of Albanian vernacular architecture and urban setting, revealing the particular atmosphere of this period. The existence in this region of the ruins of the paleochristian church of Lin together with its exceptionally beautiful floor mosaics reveals the presence of Christianity as well as the importance of this area in the period. Traces of the Roman road Via Egnatia found in the region of Pogradec near the shores of Lake Ohrid are evidence of this important passage route in this part of Albania, authorities say.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 23, 2016 11:33