WWF Adria has condemned the continued construction of hydropower plants in Valbona by Dragobia Energy and Genr2, despite a decision by the High court ordering them to stop.
In an open letter published yesterday, they said that “sounds of illegal construction reverberate throughout the Valbona Valley National Park as heavy machined works hard on two hydropower plants.”
In July of this year, following protracted legal struggles, the High Court ruled to suspend all construction work on the project until the Administrative Court decides whether the construction is in accordance with the law. This court has yet to decide, meaning the continuation of work violates the High Court ruling.
The issue lies with executing the court ruling. The plaintiffs have so far been unable to find a bailiff that will serve the necessary papers.
Catherine Bohne from TOKA, one of the plaintiffs, explains it’s not a straightforward process.
“In 2018, we had a similar ruling, but we found it hard to find a bailiff that would challenge such a company. One private bailiff said he could shut the work down for a price of EUR 36,000 but that he could only guarantee it for 24 hours.”
She added, “What does that say about the Albanian justice system?”
Those that live in the area have been fighting the construction for several years. They claim it will decimate their community, destroy tourism potential, and submerge several important historical sites. For one of Europe’s poorest regions with a high rate of emigration, it’s a matter of their life and future.
Rea Nepravishta from WWF Adria said:
“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that the investor is completely ignoring the court decision. As residents in the area can witness, illegal activities have been going on for some time. It is also worth remembering that these projects were not transparent from the beginning without proper public hearings or consultation. To make things worse, they forged people’s signatures and thwarted the procedure that is in place to protect national and public interests. People’s trust in the rule of law in Albania is at risk when investors disregard the Supreme Court’s decision as if the law does not apply to them.”
She added that it has been proven beyond any doubt that small HPPs cause “disproportionate damage to the electricity they produce,” adding that Albania is “over-reliant” on hydropower as its primary source of energy. Nepravishta said the country should look towards sustainable and renewable sources, in particular solar.
WWF Adria asked whether the competent authorities will reach and how long the communities need to suffer these illegal activities. They called on all relevant authorities to enforce the High Court decision and stop all unlawful construction of the national park.
“The country needs to look towards more sustainable, nature-positive solutions to its energy demands, putting the needs of nature and people first.”
Exit contacted Genr2 when the ruling was first announced, but did not receive a reply. Follow-up questions, and an invitation for comment, have also been sent following yesterday’s letter.