From: Erjon Kalaja
Why We Shouldn’t Build a Resort in Karavasta

A touristic resort is expected to be built inside the national park of Karavasta in Divjaka. This initiative would irreversibly destroy 1170 hectares of the park, which is a protected area of the second category.

Facts about the Karavasta National Park

The national park of Karavasta in Divjaka is one of the most important areas in Albania because of its biodiversity. This area is inhabited by a very large number of birds that live in wetlands during the winter, around 51,000 birds, and 500 birds that pair to build nests.

The type of birds inhabiting the lagoon are the Dalmatian pelican, pygmy cormorant, white-headed duck, pallid harrier, and various seagulls. They are all under protection.

89 types of species of birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammalians, and mollusks, present in the park area, are at risk in Albania. 42 species belong to different categories of birds which are at a high level of risk extinction.

According to the law for protected areas the followings are forbidden in a national park area,

  • Land exploitation using intensive technology, tools, or means that cause fundamental changes in biodiversity, in the structure and functions of ecosystems or cause irreparable damage to the surface of the earth;
  • Building of roads, highways, railroads, urban areas, high-voltage transmission lines and extended oil and gas systems.

The building of this resort violates a number of international convents:

  • The Bern Convention for the Emerald Network: Divjaka has been declared an Emerald area in 2008;
  • The Ramsar Convention, an international treaty to protect wetlands: Divjaka is the first Ramsar area in Albania since 1996;
  • Natura 2000 network for mainly protected areas, all birds and habitats that are part of the network must be protected from any harm.

The public hearing

A public hearing was organized on March 17 for Strategic Environmental Evaluation of the master plan “Resort Divjaka Albania.” The beauty of the resort and the nature surrounding can be seen in the animations on the official page of the investor, but if you cannot see a national park, you aren’t a strategic investor or environmental expert.

While leaving professionalism, ethics, or public responsibility aside, I want to list my reasons for being against this project.

  • Albania has made huge steps to build a legislation that resembles the one of a European country, but in Albania laws are violated by official institutions. Take the case of the Ministry of Environment that announced the date of the public hearing only two days prior to its happening, whereas the law requires that the announcement is made 20 days in advance.
  • The announcement was published on the website of the Ministry of Environment, while in cases that have national importance; the law demands announcements on television, radio, and in newspapers.
  • During the public hearing, representatives from the Ministry, investors, and so-called experts claimed that “projects for a national park development are local issues,” while in fact it is a national park.
  • Representatives of the private company were convinced that they were not building in a protected park, while the so-called experts kept their silence.
  • One of the representatives of the Ministry of Environment expressed that the displayed project, on the day of the public hearing, was not the same one that was published online two days ago in the Ministry’s website. Apparently the private company has taken into consideration the Ministry’s recommendations during these days.
  • The law expects that the Q&A and comments of the participants, representatives of the ministry and the company are recorded. This wasn’t happening until one organizer noticed that the speech of an activist was being live streamed on Facebook.
  • The new presentation, the one changed within two days, should have been sent to the participants within a week, but it is April 4, 2017, and nothing has been presented yet.
  • To build resort that affects two river deltas, a coastline, part of the park and a protected area, and agricultural lands that suffer from saltiness, the project should have taken into account the movement of sea waters, above and below earth surface. This was not researched in the study and the so-called experts were unprepared to give any explanations.

Aren’t these the “experts” that first must clarify the investor on risks and inform the public later?!

“Interesting” facts

  • According to the census of 2011 the Municipality of Divjaka has 8,445 inhabitants, while the resort inside the National Park is expected to have 18,280 tourists,  without accounting for the working staff.
  • Investors and experts have not taken into consideration VKM no. 687 from October 19, 2007 , “For declaring the extended surface of the natural ecosystem in the Divjaka-Karavasta National Park,” in which four areas of the park are declared protected.
  • The surface of the project occupies 1,170 hectares, or 5.3 % of the total surface of the park, or 15 % of the area with Sustainable Use, in which this investment has expanded.
  • The study has observed migratory birds on December 28, 2016. According to experts migratory birds should have been observed before the winter break.
  • The pictures of the report show that the hearing in Divjaka happened in the local bars close to the municipality.
  • The infrastructure was not part of the study despite its great effects, because the investor has applied as a “strategic investor.”
  • The investor assumes that the sewage system, roads, necessary infrastructure for drinking water, energy etc, will be built by the government.

Why am I against construction inside the National Park?

  • Building a resort in the national park of Karavasta in Divjaka is in full violation of the international environmental conventions that Albania is part of.
  • I am against this resort because it damages the territory and the natural values of the national park “Divjaka-Karavasta,” a category II protected area.
  • The project of the resort doesn’t take into consideration the recommendations of the Park Management Plan, designed with the support of JICA and approved in 2016 by the Ministry of Environment.
  • In the perennial attempt to intrude in the national natural parks using concessionary schemes, every natural park, be it national or not, will be a object targeted by “strategic” investors.
  • The information offered to the public is incomplete, unclear, with illegible maps, where basic data on infrastructure is missing, etc. When information is missing, public meetings and hearings cannot be organized as expected by the law.
  • Studies and research of investors aren’t complete. They do not measure the effect on the flora and fauna on land and in the water; the effects on the surface and underneath in the seas and rivers.
  • During the improvised “public hearing” it was implied that the comments of the participants would be ignored.
  • And lastly, I stand against this project because I don’t want my taxes to pay for building a destructive infrastructure in a national park.