Building frenzy in Albanian pelican paradise

The Karavasta Lagoon at Albania’s Adriatic coast is one of the most important wetlands on the Balkans. However, a building company plans to construct a large-scale holiday resort right there. This would be the end of the lagoon as a biodiversity hotspot.

The Karavasta-Lagoon is a hotspot for waterbirds, for example the Little Egret. © EuroNatur
In the old pine forests of the national park, there are still ideal conditions to grow: a young Hermann's Tortoise © EuroNatur
Together for the protection of the lagoon: Olsi Nika, EcoAlbania; Kujtim Mersini, PPNEA; Gabriel Schwaderer, EuroNatur; Taulant Bino, AOS (left to right) © EuroNatur

Golf courses, spa, marina – what may sound like a holiday dream to some tourists would be a nightmare for the fauna and flora of the Karavasta Lagoon. The 22,200 hectare area became a national park already in 1966. Further, it’s a Ramsar site because of its international significance as a stop-over for migratory waders and waterbirds. But both its national and international conservation status seem to be paper tigers. There are plans by Mabetex Group to build hotels and apartments for up to 18,000 tourists along the coastline. The Albanian government welcomes the building company’s project and even considers amendments of law to facilitate the construction.

“The planned holiday resort is a fundamental blow against the natural dynamics of the Karavasta Lagoon and is in stark contrast to the national park’s conservation efforts”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur. The foundation has been active in the region for many years and is supporting the establishment of environmentally sensitive tourism. This development is now imperilled, says Olsi Nika of Albanian nature conservation organisation EcoAlbania: “Plans by Mabetex Group run counter to the intended sustainable regional development in the national park area.” They would probably also put an end to the colony of the Dalmatian Pelican. The Karavasta Lagoon is the only breeding area of this highly endangered species in Albania.

“We will fight Mabetex Group’s plans with all legal means”, says Taulant Bino, CEO of AOS, another Albanian partner organisation of EuroNatur. He knows, what’s at stake: “If the holiday resort was to be built, this would be a disastrous sign also for all the other protected areas in Albania!”

Statement of Gabriel Schwaderer at the press conference in Karavasta Lagoon, 28 May 2017 (YouTube)

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