In Spite of “Moratorium,” Forest Destruction Continues

In 2016, the government approved a moratorium on the exploitation of forests, banning it for the next 10 years, until 2026. Prime Minister Edi Rama held a speech in which he lamented the destruction of Albania’s natural treasures:

“The destruction of the forests, the destruction of the rivers, riverbeds, the barbaric exploitation for wood, construction materials, […] has brought us year after year close to the abyss, that we have taken measures to avoid for the last two years. But today, after two years, we are able to go one step further and we have to take the courageous and decisive step of a 10-year moratorium of an absolute prohibition on the exploitation of the forests for the aim of profit, industrial aims, economic aims, for aims that go beyond the essential and immediate needs of the inhabitants of different zones to stay warm in the winter.”

Little has come of this “absolute prohibition.” Since 2016, the Rama government has removed nearly 600 ha from the forest registry to hand them over to commercial companies engaged in hydropower and mining activities. Among the companies profiting from the government’s violation of its own moratorium are well known names such as Victoria Invest, the company behind the unsolicited offer for the ring road, and Salillari, the concession holder of the Rruga e Kombit highway and the Tirana Bus Terminal. Both companies were allowed to undertake mining activities in forested areas, despite the moratorium.

Meanwhile, environmental activists continue to report illegal logging activities in many parts of Albania, while the “immediate needs of the inhabitants,” as Prime Minister Edi Rama formulated it, cause 3–5 times more trees to be cut than that there are planted, thus continuing steady decline of the natural environment.