From: Ilmi Rehova
Nivica, Tourist Attraction or Hydropower Zone?

An article about the transformation of the village Nivica in Tepelena from a remote place into a touristy area, a project funded by the Albanian National Coastline Agency (AKB), has lately toured the world.

Foreign media such as the Associated Press, ABC, Washington Post, FoxNews, TaiwanNews, etc. published the article of Elena Becatoros regarding her visit in Nivica and her interview with Auron Tare, the director of AKB.

According to the article written by Becatoros, the Nivica project includes investments in infrastructure and the construction of a guesthouse, expected to be finished next year.

The project envisions that the villagers will offer their homes to tourists, helping the inhabitants of Nivica to start touristic businesses of bed-and-breakfast type.

But is Nivica really a “touristic priority” for the government?

On November 23, 2015, the Minister of Culture gave her approval to the construction of the hydro plant power, Driza 1, in the reservoir collecting water from streams of the Nivica and Gusmar, which belong to the Tepelena Municipality.

Projects that require approval by the Ministry of Culture are those that may affect ruins or ancient dwellings during construction work. Nivica is known for its ruins, which, according to historical sources, may have been part of the ancient city of Kaonia. The castle of Nivica is another important heritage in the area, which is also known for a number of attractive canyons.

The news regarding the construction of a hydropower plant caused reactions from many specialists in the field, who were against this intervention that could harm the environment, as well as the archaeological ruins of Nivica.

The municipality of Tepelena has expressed its opposition to the project of the hydroplant as well. According to a BIRN article:

For over a year, the municipality of Tepelena has refused to transfer the ownership of the forest and grazing land surface to the company Kendervica energy, which got the tender to build DRIZA 1 Hydro Power Plant.

The municipality declares that the HPP affects the canyons of the Nivica, which are a natural monument, and obstructs the touristic potential of the area, and the project has not been consulted with the citizens.

In June of the current year, the Administrative Court of Gjirokastra decided in favor of Kendervica Energy, which had sued the municipality for not implementing the process, and ordered the Municipality of Tepelena to complete the administrative actions of transferring the land, the forest, and pastures to be used by the concessionary company.

The court declared that the documents showed that the company, for the period 2014-mid 2016, had received the approval by the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Energy, and various subordinate agencies, which evaluated the project and its effects on the environment. Also the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism and the National Council of Archeology and Restoration issued reports that the area was not a “priority for tourism” and that the HPP did not affect the cultural monuments or the areas with archeological potential.

Pretending that “the area is not a priority for tourism,” seems no longer to hold true after Prime Minister Edi Rama posted about Nivica on Facebook during the electoral campaign, where besides a collage of pictures from reconstructed facades of houses, he wrote:

I wish everyone a good day with this photo collage from Nivica, in Kurvelesh, one of the many heritages forgotten and in destitution for a quarter century, and which today has reclaimed its glory and has been transformed into a gem of our historical, cultural, and alpine tourism. We have accomplished a lot. There is still more left to be done.

It is still unknown what will happen in Nivica because neither the construction of the hydropower plant nor the guesthouse has started.

What can be said for certain is that the project for the reconstruction of the roofs and facades of Nivica that the Prime Minister advertised is a project that has started since 2011, finished in 2014 and was financed by World Bank.

It seems that until now, the Rama government has approved projects that harm Nivica, like the construction of HPP Driza 1, and it has ignored projects that would help tourism.