The Albanian government granted permits for the construction of 5 hydropower plants (HPP), one of which will significantly impact the Gashi River that flows in a protected area that is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
In January, following the reshuffling of government to quench protests, Prime Minister Edi Rama and the new Minister of Energy Belinda Balluku promised to suspend all HPP contracts that have not started to operate, in order “to balance development and [use of] natural resources”. Balluku added that it was “time to pause and think on future steps”.
As we predicted back then, despite promises, the government was not actually planning to pause or stop construction of HPPs, including those in protected areas.
On July 12, the National Territorial Council (KKT) headed by Prime Minister Rama approved 5 new HPP construction permits:
1-HPP Veleshica 1 and 2 on Veleshica River in Dibër and Kukës by Kalisi Hydropower shpk.
2-HPP Drita on Gashi River in Tropojë by Breçani ROSP.
3-HPP Ligjanca 1 and 2 on Ligjanca River and Pishkash Stream in Prrenjas by Rei Energji shpk.
4-HPP Shutri 1 and 2 on Shutri Stream in Mat by ATEANI shpk.
5-HPP Kuç on Shushica River in Himarë by Age Kuç shpk.
The KKT also extended the construction time for permits of HPP Darsi 1 and 2 on Darsi Stream in Klos by Henz Energy shpk.
HPP permits on Gashi River and Shutri Stream are expected to be opposed by inhabitants.
Gashi River is a “Category I” strictly protected reserve. Its ancient beech woods are strictly protected in 12 European countries.
HPP Drita will be built 1.14 km away from the reserve and 1.01km away from the Valbona national park. Its pipes will be 365m away from glacial moraines.
HPP Shutri 1 and 2 on Uraka River is also expected to draw more contestation by inhabitants who have protested against HPPs earlier.
500 HPPs have been planned to build in Albania in the last ten years; more 100 HPPs are under construction, 60 of which in 12 protected areas.
The Albanian government has continuously dismissed protests by inhabitants and environmentalists.