Few Albanians are aware that Vjosa, the largest river in southern Albania, is the last river in Europe that until today has an unchanged flow stream,” says Professor Friedriech Schiemer, a famous ecologist from the University of Vienna, who has just arrived at Rinas airport.
Accompanied by Olsi Nika, environmental biologist and environmental activist in Albania, they are waiting in the arrival hall for thirty scientists and experts in other fields, coming from various parts of Europe. Their destination is the Poçem Valley in the Vjosa, here the government has approved a concession for the construction of a hydropower plant, with a dam 50 meters high, that will lay across both banks of the river, over a length of 200 meters.
Often times, through the centuries, with the many twisting and turnings of the riverbeds and the sudden flows of the river across the valley, along the shores at the foot of the mountain, through the tight paths down the slope, river Vjosa has attracted many a visitor. Famous authors have evoked in poetries and memories the many wonders of the picturesque landscape. However, this group of biologists and ecologists from Europe, on duty to explore the potentials of the rich ecosystem, are today on an emergency expedition.
For less than a week, the work groups will explore the habitat, while a portion of the accumulated data will be examined in the laboratory. In any case, the direct onsite observations show high expectations.
Ulrich Eichelmann from RiverWatch concludes.
This area has not been not fully researched; therefore we do not know the consequences resulting from building a concrete dam. Some areas will be undoubtedly flooded and the riverbed will change. The dam will block everything. When the flow stops, life stops as well. More time is needed to inspect nature and the decisions must be made by scientists, not politicians.
A group of journalists from “National Geographic,” “Radio ORF,” “Le Courriers des Balkans,” and “ARTE,” will be the only participants in this environmental adventure in the Balkans. Accompanied by the scientists, the cameras representing the aforementioned powerful media will document everything. It seems that the local media is busy with more “serious” matters.
On Wednesday, April 26, the organizers have planned a special activity. During the afternoon, at 15:00, where the dam is planned to be built, in the middle of the river Vjosa, where the riverbed branches out and creates one of the many island along its trajectory, the scientists, right on this tiny island in the middle of the river, will hold a press conference. This will be one of the strangest conferences, where the participants, like never before, will arrive on a boat! Hoping that this novel way will attract the absent media attention.