From: Alice Taylor
Albanian President Speaks Out Over Hydropower Plants

President Ilir Meta has spoken out against the construction of hydropower plants in Albania. Taking part in a round table called “The future of the Vjosa river”, the President said he supports the initiative to halt plans for the construction of HPPs on the Vjosa River.

He said that environmental impact reports on HPPs were prepared quickly and irresponsibly.

“The Vjosa River is a natural resource for the country. The construction of large-scale HPPs and unfriendly and hostile spaces in green areas, can not be on the green path for development in the country. Scientists insist that HPPs cause damage to water surfaces as well as climate aggravation and global warming. The quality of reports on the environmental impact of HPPs is also a concern. They are often prepared quickly and approved by the government and concessionaire.”

The President mentioned an open letter from the European community regarding concerns for HPPs. Surprisingly, he said, these alarm bells are not heard by the government.

“The Albanian state must preserve the values of nature and human health. I support the ban on dams on the Vjosa and its declaration as a National Park,” he added.

Yesterday, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina were due to take a decision on whether to ban HPPs on rivers in the country. A group of international conservation NGOs called on them to enforce the ban else risk thousands of kilometres of river, and the people and wildlife that depend on it.

The rivers that run between Albania and Slovenia, including those in BiH are some of the continents most important for freshwater biodiversity. There are 69 endemic fish species in these rivers alone.

Known as the “Blue Heart”, these Balkan wild rivers are home to species such as marble, softmouth, prespa trout, the endangered Danube, salmon, the white-clawed crayfish, and the land around it is home to the endangered Balkan lynx. These rivers provide the habitat needed for 113 of the most endangered fish species in the region.

Despite their ecological value, these rivers are under attack from an onslaught of hydropower plants including in protected areas. There are currently plans for over 3000 dams across the Western Balkans. These projects include the construction of access roads and tunnels which require deforestation, further destruction of the habitat, and interference that will drive out animals and other wildlife.