Joint press release by Riverwatch, EuroNatur and PPNEA
150 people discuss the future of the river - parliamentarians will be informed
Përmet, Vienna, Radolfzell, December 19, 2014 On Wednesday and Thursday the first public discussions about the future of the Vjosa Valley took place in the cities of Çarshovë (16.12.) and Përmet (17.12.) in southern Albania. While official plans of the government envisage the construction of eight dams along the river, the mayors and people of the affected communities support the alternative idea of establishing a national park. A declaration to stop the dam projects and protect the river as a national park instead was signed. The “Vjosa Tour” will continue early next year with similar debates in communities along the river.
150 people followed the invitation of the Albanian NGO PPNEA (Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania) and the mayors of the cities and participated in the discussions about the future of their valley. Representatives of PPNEA and Riverwatch - an international society for the protection of rivers - explained the effects of the proposed hydropower plants and the idea to protect the entire river from the mountains to the sea as a national park.
"We are grateful for such information and the possibility to discuss the issue. We don´t want to be dammed, but want a Vjosa National Park instead. This way, we can protect our river and maintain it for our economic future", says Veli Mehmeti, mayor of Çarshovë. His colleague Gilberto Jaçe, mayor of Permet, agrees: "We are in favour of a national park, since it could promote the development of sustainable ecotourism and, as a result, improve the economic situation of the region. However, it must be a national park according to international management standards, not one that exists only on paper, like some others in Albania."
Arta Dade, member of the Albanian parliament, who participated in the event in Çarshovë says: "I also support the idea of a national park and I will inform the parliamentarians in Tirana about it. I strongly hope that we can save this beautiful river."
The Vjosa in southern Albania is one of Europe’s last wild rivers. Along its course of 270 kilometers it is untamed and free flowing. In some areas the riverbed expands over more than 2 km in width. "The Vjosa is the crown jewel of wild rivers in Europe. The proposed hydropower plants would destroy this breathtaking landscape, including habitat for many endangered species," warns Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch, coordinator of the international campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe, which is carried out by Riverwatch and EuroNatur in cooperation with local NGO partners.
"We will oppose the dam projects in the region and we will fight for the idea of a national park," concludes Olsi Nika, project coordinator at PPNEA.
The events were organized in the framework of the international campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” and are part of a series of similar events along the river. The “Vjosa Tour” will continue early next year with conferences in Tepelenë, Memaliaj, Selenicë and Novoselë from January to April and will end with a public "Vjosa Day" in Tiranë in May.
The projected dams along the Vjosa River constitute only one wave of a true dam tsunami that is putting Balkan Rivers at risk. More than 570 new dams (> 1 MW) are currently projected between Slovenia to Albania. In order to counteract this spate of destruction, EuroNatur’ and ‘RiverWatch’' have launched the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign in cooperation with local partner in the respective Balkan counties.
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Olsi Nika, PPNEA firstname.lastname@example.org, 00355 2944757
Ulrich Eichelmann, Riverwatch, email@example.com, 0043 676 6621512
Romy Durst, EuroNatur, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0049 7732 927212