Between 4 and 11 July, a group of students, academics, experts, and local river defenders will gather on the Valbona River in Tropoje for one week.
Organized by the River Collective, their aim is to celebrate and protect the last free-flowing rivers of Europe through collaboration, the exchange of knowledge, and creative action.
During the week, those in attendance will explore and learn from the Valbona river. Topics include river conservation, science studies and expeditions, lectures, corruption workshops, and trips through the stunning scenery.
They will explore the common link between rivers, hydropower and corruption and how dams damage the environment and communities that live around them. They will also discuss ways to work to preserve the river and to fight against a range of threats.
“Hydropower is erroneously seen as a renewable source of energy, however, there is now plenty of evidence that supports the claim that hydropower dams are far from sustainable. A complex system of subsidies and foreign investments enable this hydropower development, which is further driven by corruption,” River Collective states.
Some of the lectures that will take place will include the voices of local people who have been ignored and even threatened by HPP companies. They will discuss their fight as well as the impact HPP has on their lives and future.
The students in attendance will include those studying Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhDs from all disciplines, and even students who are not currently enrolled.
The Valbona River is a relatively untouched river in the north of Albania. It flows through Valbone, Dragobi, and Shoshan and then joins the Drin near Fierze. The people of the region live in close harmony with the river and have done so for centuries. Some parts of the Kanun of Lek Dukagjini, a set of ancient feudal rules that once governed society, even refer to how communities should divide and irrigate water sources between them.
Now HPPs built by Genr2 and Dragobia Energy, threaten them all. Locals say that building the plants is illegal, and the process is irregular; they also claim they have received threats for opposing the projects. Others claimed and stated in court that the companies have misused their signature and even used the names of dead people on documents in an attempt to show support for the projects. Court cases are ongoing and construction continues.
The development companies refute any wrongdoing.