Rama’s Hypocrisy on World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day and Prime Minister Rama published on his Facebook a photograph of Gorica in Berat to show how much his government is doing for the protection of the environment.

“On this World Environment Day, Albania is waking up with an overflowing balance as regards the treatment of the environment, forests, and green surfaces,” Rama added to the photograph.


But different from what the Prime Minister claims, during the four years of the Rama–Meta government, the environment has not only not be at the focus of the government politicians, it has even become the victim of a series of destructive decisions.

Divjaka–Karavasta National Park 

Three years ago, when the new government just had started its four-year mandate, the Behgjet Paçolli’s company Mabetex didn’t hesitate to present its project: the construction of a large tourist resort that would irrevocably destroy 1,170 of protected nature reserve in the Divjaka–Karavasta National Park.

The plans immediately created a lot of resistance from international environmental organizations, Albanian ones, as well as ordinary citizens, which tried to prevent the destruction of the protected lagoon by clientelist construction companies.

Except the direct impact on the biodiversity of the region, the construction of the resort also openly violates the Law on Protected Zones.

Granting building permits for such a massive complex would set a precedent for similar projects in other national parks, as nearly all investors in tourism seek out natural parks as the most coveted building sites.

The Vjosa Valley

Another area that is being destroyed by the government is the valley of the river Vjosa, where the government is planning a hydropower plant near Poçem, as well as several other dams in the river.

As in the case of the Karavasta lagoon, international environmental organizations and even the Vice-President of the European Parliament spoke out against the government’s plans, which would irrevocably destroy the last free-flowing river in Europe. Moreover, the government did not produce any serious studies of the environmental impact of the project, and failed to hold any public hearings including the inhabitants of the region.

In May 2017, the Administrative Court of Tirana was able to stop the construction of the hydropower plant.

Construction work on hydropower plants in Valbona.
Construction work on hydropower plants in Valbona.

The Valbona Valley

In 1996 the government handed out 11 concessions to build hydropower plants in the river Valbona, which lies in a protected natural park in the Albanian Alps. The current Rama government refused to cancel the two remaining active concessions.

After protests of activists, artists, and inhabitants, the Administrative Court of Tirana recently decided to accept a lawsuit of the inhabitants of the region against the construction company, a case which will be heard next week.

Concrete dumped into the Artificial Lake Park, Tirana.
Concrete dumped into the Artificial Lake Park, Tirana.

Artificial Lake Park in Tirana

The construction of the “children’s corner” inside the Artificial Lake Park in Tirana is yet another example of Rama’s policy to dump concrete left, right, and center. In this case through a clientelist project supported by his “crown prince,” Erion Veliaj.

Except the many trees that were felled during the nightly construction work, which was protested for months on end by activists camping out in the park, the construction of the park also violated the Aarhus Convention on the inclusion of citizens in decision making processes that influence the environment.

The entire project was executed in a complete lack of transparency, even though 11 environmental organization asked the Municipality to halt the construction work and to provide full openness about the project and respect the laws. All of these calls were squarely ignored by the mayor and the prime minister.

Waste Management Law

To top it off, Prime Minister Rama was also the architect of the return of the much-debated waste management law in July 2016, a law which he had aggressively argued against when he was in the opposition. In fact, the cancellation of the waste management law from the Berisha government was one of his first acts as Prime Minister.

Again there were large protests by civil society and a graffiti actions by activists. The President refused to decree the law, after which it was returned to Parliament for further discussion. Meanwhile, the parliamentary committee dealing with the environment failed to meet the official deadlines, which left the law hanging in a legal vacuum. It is expected that a future Rama government, should he acquire a majority, will pass the law on its own.

All these decisions and projects that profit a small group of oligarchs in Albania have caused the country to rank second to last in Europe and among Third World countries as regards the quality of the environment, air, and the efforts of the government to protect the environment.