For more than 10 years, local activists, international groups, scientists, and artists have fought against planned hydropower projects in the Balkans. In September 2020, Albanian politicians publicly announced the establishment of a Vjosa wild river national park, which would protect the entire network of tributaries. Yet, since then, local citizens are increasingly worried that this won’t be the case. They now feel compromises will be made, putting the river in imminent danger.
The national Albanian elections are due to take place on the 25th of April 2021. International nature conservation groups such as EcoAlbania, RiverWatch, and EuroNatur are calling on the public and political leaders to ensure the future of the Vjosa forever.
Studies show that 94 percent of Albanian people are in favour of establishing this wild river national park. If successful, this will be Europe’s first wild river national park and unparalleled in Europe in terms of ecological importance and scale. The designation would protect over 300km of rivers and streams, host to over 1,100 species; many of which are considered threatened.
Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO, Riverwatch, says: “The Vjosa miraculously survived the decades of destruction in Europe; it´s a gift to all of us. And it is, therefore, not only an Albanian responsibility to protect it, but also a European responsibility. This wild river national park would be an immense achievement for conservation efforts in Europe, and, at an EU level, it will make a real and significant contribution to the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the EU Green Deal.”
Besjana Guri, a Communication Officer for EcoAlbania thinks this is a moment for all Albanian citizens to feel real pride. “Not only are we protecting our country, our culture and our future, but, in the Vjosa, we have something of precious beauty that is unparalleled in Europe.” she added.
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