From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Appeals Court Upholds Revocation of HPP License in Zall Gjocaj

Residents of Zall Gjocaj, a remote area in northern Albania have expressed their joy after the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Court of the First Instance to revoke the license for the Zajs hydropower plant.

The legal battle has been going on for several years after residents opposed the construction of the plant which was built within the Lura Mali e Dejes National Park. Not only were they resolute to protect the surrounding nature, but they insisted that their livelihoods and homes were at stake if the plans went ahead.

“Victory! We won, victory, victory, many victories,” said resident Adem Xhokola when speaking to Citizens Channel. The residents of Zall Gjocaj have travelled for every court hearing, a journey of some five hours by car, to fight for their community.

Another resident, Dhimiter Koleci said “Excuse me for my emotions, it is unbelievable. It is a great joy, the sweat of three years has given a positive decision. The river in the Zall Gjocaj National Park will flow freely!”

The lawyer defending the citizens, Aurora Leka explained that the ruling means even though the hydropower plant has been built, it cannot produce electricity.

But the fight is not over yet as residents have filed another three lawsuits with the Administrative Court and another with the Special Court Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK).

The case in SPAK was filed against Minister of the Environment Blendi Klosi, Mayor of Mat Agron Malaj, and the Director of the National Agency of Protected Areas in Mat Zamir Dedej, representatives of Seka Hydropower, and those involved in drafting environmental impact reports.

Their claims include several criminal offenses such as abuse of office, forgery of documents, and constructing within a protected area. Under Albanian law, such works are not permitted within national parks.

Earlier this week, a High Court decision was enforced to suspend the operation of two HPPs in Valbona, following a years-long legal battle.