The Environmental Achievements of 2017

Waste Import 

The biggest success for civil society since the 1990s came in 2017. The withdrawal of the draft law on waste import in September 2017 came as a result of a 1-year campaign headed by the activists of the Alliance against Waste Imports (AKIP). The campaign culminated in October 2016, when approximately 3,000 citizens marched toward the Prime Minister’s office, after a series of earlier protests. Then president Nishani approved a decree that returned the draft law for consultation in Parliament, and after a year the decree was put to a vote in Parliament resulting in failure of the draft law on waste imports. The continuous campaign, then mostly launched by the media during 2017, consolidated the public opinion in an absolute majority that waste import is not an option for Albania. Politics obeyed the will of the people.

The Incinerators

The struggle against the construction of incinerators went in parallel with the law on waste imports. While the latter struggle is over, the former, against the incinerators, is becoming more intense. The protests of the villages around Fier initiated a year ago were accompanied with a continuous public debate. Civil society, where again AKIP is on the frontlines, has a consensus that the alternative for the management of waste through incinerators is wrong and contrary to the law on waste management and EU directives. Furthermore, there is reasonable doubt to expect that the incinerators are the forerunners of a later waste imports. This doubt comes also from the fact that the government plans to reintroduce in Parliament the law on waste imports, as soon as has “informed” the people. The bypassing of the law and waste management strategy, the speed and secrecy of the procedures, in clear lack of public transparency has classified the government initiative for the construction of the incinerators as a corruption affair. The given concessions for the incinerators in Fier or Tirana are at the center of attention of civil society. The annulment of the concessions for these incinerators and the powerful return to the European waste management scheme seems to the strongest struggle of 2018.

National Parks

The national Park of Valbona is in danger. Thousands of tons of concrete are being thrown in Valbona and hundreds of explosions are made in the valley to open tunnels and put the river into the tubes that would allow the construction of the hydropower plants. The Earth Association and the inhabitants of the valley have sued in administrative court the state and the company Gener 2, demanding the invalidation of the contract, signed against the law on protected zones. The achievement in this case was the start of a legal struggle but also the increase of public awareness of community and the entire Albanian public opinion accompanied by a string of protests in Valbona, Tropoja, and Tirana.

The Divjaka–Karavasta National Park is threatened by a real-estate development project, under the tempting proposition of a tourist resort. Even in this case, civil society has a unified opinion to protect the park from violation and illegal interests that damage the environment and Albanian nature. During 2017 there was an intensive public awareness campaign and as a result the biggest house of the migratory birds in the territory of Albania remains theirs, intact.


The backing down of the concessionary company of the hydropower plant of Poçem was undoubtedly an achievement. The struggle to save the free stream of the Vjosa river, as the last great wild river in Europe, has started at least 4 years ago, with protests in the Vjosa valley and in Tirana. In this struggle, Albanian activists had also huge international support with organisations like Riverwatch and Euronature playing a strong role. Unlike other environmental struggles, the struggle for Vjosa had within its midst engaged international scientists.  The biggest achievement of 2017 was winning the court struggle, where it was proven that the construction company had copied most of the its environmental impact assessment from another object in another place. This is simultaneously a shame and responsibility for our institutions who give and examine environmental permissions. The vigilance of civil society saved one of the most beautiful segments of river Vjosa in Këlcyra. The next struggle to be won is the annulment of the concession for the hydropower plant of Kalivaç.

The environment in Tirana

Everyone accepts that Erion Veliaj and the Municipality of Tirana are working and that Tirana is changing for the best. Beyond the municipal works, there have been good environmental initiatives initiated by the Municipality such as setting a price on the plastic bags in some supermarkets and in bakeries as well as the promotion of the electronic bus and the construction of some bicycle lanes.

But since exactly 1 year ago with the approval of the plan Tirana 2030, the city has been moving in the wrong direction. The increase in construction intensity can lead to the collapse of the city. Tirana has a density of over 15,000 inhabitants/km2, while the European capitals vary from 3,000–6000 inhabitants/km2. The intensification of construction, as was seen with the many building permits in Tirana in 2017, encourages huge population increases in Tirana, swallowing up half of the entire country’s population.

There have been a critical and well argued stances against this wrong-headed direction of the Municipality of Tirana, but the Mayor has managed to evade substantial debate on the prospects of the city. The citizens went out and protested in the case of the park’s destruction as well as against the construction of the massive building complex in Kavaja street, but have failed to prevent this hurricane of construction in Tirana. A total disconnect of leadership is happening in Tirana with the incinerator concession in Tirana county. The increased air pollution in Tirana is not accounted for in the 120 million concession deal. Civil society has rejected this decision within the limited media space, and this is a small merit for 2017.

This article was first published at, edited and translated by Exit.