TIRANA, January 26
The Protection and Preservation of Natural Environmental Albania (PPNEA) organization is raising concern over the plan for the construction of a new airport, known as Vlora airport, in the Vjosa-Narta protected area. The stance was published on the third issue of PPNEA’s project newsletter Land of Eagles and Castles.
Moreover, the organization is also raising concern about the lack of information among the public opinion, mostly because there is no environmental journalist in Albania, or because environmental news rarely hits the headlines.
Hence, PPNEA is struggling to spread facts on the infrastructural project, which according to them will destroy Vjosa-Narta Protected Landscape. According to PPNEA, the issue with the airport is related to the fact that it is being framed as development.
“We all know that such developmental plans cannot be implemented inside the protected areas. We need to show the local community that this is not the right kind of development they need.
Vjose – Narte is a perfect location for eco and agro-tourism and we have funded there an entrepreneurial model for the locals to follow,” the organization points out.
During recent years, infrastructural projects over or in the Vjosa river region have caused massive domestic and international attention. Pressure from local communities and international organizations forced Albanian authorities to withdraw from HPP plans. All that happened while the upper part of the river had no protected status, like the Vjosa-Narta area.
An official stance regarding the airport plan in this specific area came in October by the European Commission on Albania 2020 report regarding EU Enlargement Policy. The report, page 106, highlights the fact that legislation on strategic investment raises concerns for the protection of biodiversity, as it may allow large tourism and industrial investments in protected areas, e.g. the proposed airport in the Vjosa-Narta area. Moreover, the legislation on strategic investment conflicts with other national laws and with international biodiversity protection conventions that Albania has ratified. Hence, the EC recommended Albanian authorities take immediate measures to review and improve environmental and strategic impact assessments on existing and planned projects, plans, and programs, especially in the hydropower, construction, tourism, and mining sectors.
On their part, PPNEA and partner organizations are preparing an open letter addressed to the prime minister. Meanwhile, the organization calls on people who want to join the cause, to spread the word, and give a contribution to conserving a unique habitat in Albania.
The neverending bidding procedure on Vlora Airport was reopened in December 2019 but it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the master plan, the airport will be constructed in the Vjosa Narta Protected Landscape. The initial project includes various development areas as seen in the photo below.
Source/Photo Credit: PPNEA