The Committee of the Bern Convention has called on the Albanian government to halt construction works for the Vlora Airport, due to the apparent lack of adherence to national and international laws.
Vlora Airport is being built by a consortium led by a company owned by Kosovo politician Behgjet Pacolli and a Turkish conglomerate tied to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the government said it would create some 27,000 jobs.
However, the project is controversial as it is located on the edge of a protected area, in the flight path of migratory birds, and the development permit was approved before the Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out.
During the annual meeting of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention held last week in Strasbourg, the Albanian authorities were urged to suspend construction work on the planned Vlora airport.
“The committee also urges the Albanian government to initiate a comprehensive wildlife monitoring program and integrate the data into the revised environmental impact assessment report,” a joint press statement from PPNEA, AOS and EuroNatur states.
“By building an airport in a travel corridor of a protected area, the Albanian government is not only destroying the nature of its country but also damaging the natural heritage of the entire European continent”, says Aleksandër Trajçe, executive director of PPNEA in Albania.
The Bern Convention evaluated the situation on the ground along with representatives from the Convention on Migratory Birds and the Agreement for the Conservation of African and Eurasian Waterfowl.
The executive director of AOS, Taulant Bino, has called on the Albanian government to stop these plans with negative consequences.
“I call on the Albanian government to obey the decision of the Permanent Committee of the Berne Convention, and to cooperate in the recovery of damaged habitats within the Protected Area”, said Bino.
NGOs Albanian Ornithological Society, the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania, with support from Euronatur officially announced the submission of a lawsuit to the Administrative Court in November to challenge the administrative process for the realisation of the project.
They claim the project and its construction is illegal and highlight it is taking place in one of the country’s most important and highly biodiverse wetlands.
The Vjosa –Narta Lagoon is part of the network of protected areas, with the status of “Protected Landscape”, also known as Important Bird Area (IBA), Important Biodiversity Area (KBA), official candidate of the Emerald network as part of Bern Convention and meets all the criteria to be declared as Wetlands of International Importance, as part of the Ramsar Convention.