Dam project stopped for the present

++ Albanian Court stops dam project on the Vjosa ++ Success for nature conservation and affected residents ++

Inside the Administrative Court: the judges ruled in favour of Europe’s last big wild river. © Olta Hadushaj
Attorney Vladimir Meçi, interviewed by Albanian media after the Court announced its decision. This was the first-ever environmental lawsuit in Albania. © Olta Hadushaj
Success for nature conservation: the Vjosa remains free-flowing for the time being. © Gernot Kunz

Tirana, May 3, 2017. Big success for the protection of Europe’s last big wild river, the Vjosa in Albania! Yesterday afternoon, the judges of the Albanian Administrative Court in Tirana announced their decision against the construction of the projected hydropower plant “Poçem”: for the time being, the dam must not be constructed. According to the Court ruling, the basis of the construction licence, namely the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as the public consultation process, was highly deficient.

The Vjosa ist the last big wild river in Europe, outside Russia. The Albanian government commissioned a Turkish company with the construction of a large dam. The conservation organization EcoAlbania Riverwatch and EuroNatur, together with 38 affected residents, filed a lawsuit against this project. Vladimir Meçi, attorney of the plaintiffs: „This is an important step for the protection of the Vjosa and a promising day for the rule of law in our country. It means that affected residents and NGOs can actually expect that their concerns are being heard and genuinely examined in Albanian courts.

The Vjosa case was the first-ever environmental lawsuit in Albania. The Ministry of Environment and the Turkish construction company can appeal this decision within 15 days. A second-instance decision can be expected by September/October 2017. “We are extremely delighted about this decision. This is a stage win, at the very least. If necessary we will take this case all the way to the Supreme Court in order to save Europe’s last big wild river”, says Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign at Riverwatch.

Grounds of this lawsuit were an inadequate EIA as well as the absence of proper public consultation of affected residents. Both procedures are required by Albanian law for projects of this kind. However, their application was a farce. For the EIA commissioned by the project applicants and approved by the Ministry of Environment, no in situ examination was carried out, no data on occurrences of species or projected impacts on ground water was conducted, and 60 percent of the text was simply copy-pasted from other assessments and thus not even site-specific.

Similarly, the public consultation procedure was utterly dubious: the required consultation did indeed take place, but without the affected community – they were simply not invited. Instead, 20 employees of the municipality of Fier – a town 80 kilometers away from Poçem and not even located at the Vjosa – listened to the project applicants’ announcements.

Nevertheless, the respective Albanian ministries had accepted the application and granted a construction licence. The environmental NGOs and affected residents launched a complaint against this procedure and the first-instance court ruled in their favour today.

“This decision shows the importance of fighting disputed hydropopower projects on a legal level – not only in Albania but in the entire Balkan region. Many – if not most – of the 2700 projeted hydropower plans in the Balkans contradict national and European legislation. We will prepare further legal actions against project that we perceive as unlawful”, signals EuroNatur CEO Gabriel Schwaderer.

Background information:

• The Vjosa is the last big wild river in Europe outside Russia. Entirely unobstructed, she flows through inaccessible gorges and sections with enormous gravel banks and islands on her course of almost 270 kilometers from the Pindus Mountains to the Adriatic Sea. The Albanian government under Prime Minister Edi Rama intended to have a Turkish company construct a hydropower project within the ecologically most valuable stretch of the Vjosa.

• The campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” aims to protect the most valuable rivers in the Balkans. The campaign is coordinated by the NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur and carried out together with partner organisations in the Balkan countries.

Contacts:

Vladimir Meçi – Attorney: studiomeci(at)yahoo.com +355 696012800
Cornelia Wieser – Riverwatch: cornelia.wieser(at)riverwatch.eu +43 650 4544784
Christian Stielow – EuroNatur: christian.stielow(at)euronatur.org + 49 7732 92 72-15

Do you want to help?

Donation

Future needs nature. EuroNatur cares for it. Please use your possibilities to help. With your donation you will make an effective contribution to protect rivers in Europe.

News: Blue Heart of Europe

Study proves: Small power plants, big damage

European-financed small hydropower plants damaging pristine Balkan landscapes

Mavrovo-Nationalpark: Demand for a halt to construction of hydroelectric power plants

Bern Convention: Macedonian government requested to halt construction of hydropower plants in national park

Albanian industrial confederation demands halt of dam plans at Vjosa River

In Albanian society, the opposition against the projected building development of the Vjosa River is receiving further support. In an open letter to...

Hydropower Tsunami on Balkans

New hydropower report: Dam tsunami on Balkans is speeding up ++ 2.800 hydropower projects planned, 187 under construction ++ more than 1.000 of them...

Hands off Vjosa!

“Mos ma prek Vjosën (Hands off Vjosa!)” was the slogan at an atmospheric open air concert held in Tirana, where musicians let everyone hear about the...

Two new animal species discovered in the area of projected dam on Vjosa

++ International research team finds 300 animal species in only one week, including a new fish and stonefly species ++ Sediment transport could grind...

Huchen protesting at Drina Regatta

++ 20,000 people at this year's event on Drina River in Serbia ++ NGO's protested against damming the globally most important Huchen (Danube Salmon)...

Hydropower project Kalivaç revisited

Albanian government re-opens the concession procedure for the Kalivaç HPP++ NGOs prepare their opposition

Dam project stopped for the present

++ Albanian Court stops dam project on the Vjosa ++ Success for nature conservation and affected residents ++

 

Scientists for Vjosa

++ 25 scientists from Austria, Albania, Germany and Slovenia research Europe’s last wild river for a week ++ Press conference held on river island ++

European Parliament discusses Sava River

++ Opportunities for and threats to one of the most valuable rivers of Europe ++ Unique potential for natural flood control identified

Albania: European Parliament demands national park for Vjosa and stop to hydropower projects

In the current Enlargement Report of the European Parliament, the Parliament explicitly criticizes the Albanian government in regards to its...

“White Book Sava” presented

On the occasion of this year’s World Wetland Day on February 2, the environmental organisations Riverwatch and EuroNatur today present the “”White...

New Hope for Balkan Rivers

Funding for the two large hydropower projects in Mavrovo National Park, Macedonia, has been axed. After the World Bank withdrew from financing the...

Scientists call environmental assessment for Vjosa hydropower project a farce

Renowned scientists from Austria and Germany have analysed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the hydropower project Poçem on the Vjosa...

By using our services, you agree that we use cookies. Data protection