From: Arjola Tafaj
Court Rules against HPP Activists and Residents in Valbona Case

This Thursday, a court hearing was held in the Administrative Court in Tirana against the Construction of Hydro Power Plants (HPPs) in Valbone.

Residents of villages Rrogam, Valbone, Dragobi, and Cerem in Tropoja area, together with “Toka Association” for the Preservation and Protection of the Albanian Alps, have filed a complaint at Administrative Court against the Ministry of Energy and Industry, the National Environment Agency, National Territory Council, “Gener-2” Company and “Dragobia” Company.

The citizens request the suspension of the construction of two HPPs and the suspension of the implementation of administrative actions until their appeal for the work to stop permanently has been judged.

They ask for the invalidity of the Concession Contract for the construction and operation of two hydropower plants and the Invalidity of Environmental Permit for the HPP Project “Dragobia” approved by the National Environment Agency.

Works are continuing in the area of Valbona National Park, without a valid construction permit. This presents a current and ongoing risk of creating serious and irreparable damage to the environment of the protected area of the Valbona Valley, according to the plaintiffs. They said it’s vital to suspend the execution of these acts until a final decision is made regarding the overall case.

According to the respondent, “the Hydropower Plant has been built and there should be no turning back”.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Energy gave this private concession to Company “Gener 2” for the realization of the Dragobia Project. This comprises the construction of two HPPs within the territory of the Valbona Valley National Park, an area that includes the villages of Rrogam, Valbone, Dragobi, and Cerem. It’s estimated it will impact a total area of 600 ha of land and a population of about 1000 inhabitants.

According to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters, residents have the right to appeal against this decision.

In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

  • Article 4 access to environmental information.
  • Article 6 public participation in decisions on specific activities.
  • Article 9 access to justice.

The construction of the Hydropower Plants has been done in a protected area and the possible damages will affect the life of the inhabitants, the development of tourism, the lack of irrigation of the lands, the destruction of the ecosystem, argued the plaintiff’s lawyer.

Genr2’s lawyer said that there was no evidence of damage and dismissed their arguments.

Earlier today, Exit published photos of an area impacted by the HPPs that was supposedly rehabilitated by the company.

The previous law did not specify the prohibition of the construction of hydropower plants but prohibited the intervention with intensive technology, heavy vehicles causing a radical change in biodiversity, in the structure of ecosystems, that irreparably damage the earth’s surface, including the construction of roads, voltage lines etc.

Valbona Valley has been declared a protected area of category 2, “National park”. It has an area of 8000 ha, located in the center of the Eastern Alps, and includes Tropoja Municipality, and the Kukes Municipality.

The lawyer of Genr2/Dragobia Energy presented a letter to the court which it claims shows support from local residents regarding HPPs in the area. This was disputed by Toka’s lawyer who said the document was misleading and false.

Nevertheless, the appeals panel decided to leave in force the decision of the previous court. That was that no interim relief would be given and construction could continue.

The justification for the previous decision was that any decision taken by the government is in the public interest. Therefore people complaining about government decisions are in fact arguing against their own interests and are illogical, therefore the Aarhaus Convention does not apply.

The decision of the Administrative Court will be issued in written containing the reasoning after a few days (5-20 days).