HPP construction in Valbona met with protests from Tirana to New York

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 15, 2016 10:36

HPP construction in Valbona met with protests from Tirana to New York

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  • The Valbona river, 65 kilometers long is the center of tourism in the area and the pride of Albania’s alpine tourism and the construction of hydropower plans risks the destruction of natural heritage, activists claim

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TIRANA, April 11 – Citizens and environmental activists protested this week in Tirana and Bajram Curri against plans for the construction of 11 hydropower plants in the Valbona river, which threatens to cause irreparable damage to a protected natural area and a nascent tourism industry in the region.

The protesters gathered in front of the Prime Minister's office in Tirana, while hundred others gathered in the main square of Bajram Curri in north-eastern Albania demanding the government to prevent the destruction of the national park. A dozen protesters holding signs "No dams in Valbona" also staged a protest as far away as New York, where Prime Minister Edi Rama is meeting with Albanian diaspora.

The Valbona valley covering an area of 8,000 hectares has been listed as a national park since 1996 and is visited by thousands of tourists, both domestic and foreign, each year. The entire region relies on tourism to secure livelihood with the majority of inhabitants investing in accommodation facilities as bookings from tourists in love with the Alps have significantly increased over the last couple of years.

The Valbona river, 65 kilometers long is the center of tourism in the area and the pride of Albania's alpine tourism and the construction of hydropower plans risks the destruction of natural heritage, activists claim.

"We are all aware regarding the tourism potential in the Valbona valley. People living there have hope, have a future since now they can generate income from tourism. Bookings in the area have skyrocketed," green activist Lavdosh Ferruni told the media, while adding that anything needs to be done to protect the valley from destruction.

"Profits are mainly individual while the region gets very little in return, such decisions have to be reviewed," local inhabitants said.

At present, Albanian governments, current and previous ones, have signed three concessionary agreements for the construction of hydro power plants in the area with the most recent one dating back to 2014.

The contracts are legally binding agreements and the government is obliged to respect them or otherwise face the costs related to unilateral contract termination.
In addition to these three contracts, there are projects for other hydropower plants to be constructed in the Valbona river.

The Valbona valley is not the only one under threat as a result of dam construction. Vjosa river and its beautiful canyons in southern Albania are also at risk since projects for the construction of hydropower plants there have been unveiled, too.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 15, 2016 10:36