The entire Aoos River in Greece and its tributaries are now protected

An important step was taken today by the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy with the designation of part of the catchment area of the transboundary river Aoos (source of the Vjosa River) in Greece as a Protected Natural Formation and Protected Landscape. The designation covers the area that was previously unprotected, from the boundary of the Northern Pindos National Park to the Greek-Albanian border.

Greek Wild River

The Sarantaporos is the largest tributary of the Aoos. Several small hydropower plants were previously planned along its flow.

© P. Thomaidi/Hans Lucas
Wild River in Greek

Small rivers such as the Vourkopotamos in the Aoos basin also benefit from the new Protected Landscape.

© P. Thomaidis/Hans Lucas

This is a major achievement for the international campaign ‘Save the Blue Heart of Europe' for the protection of Balkan Rivers: Following the designation of the Albanian part of the Aoos (Vjosa) as a National Park in March 2023, the coordinated efforts of EuroNatur and its greek and international partners in the campaign contributed to ensure that the entire Aoos river basin is now institutionally protected by the Greek authorities. 

The next step to ensure institutional protection is the adoption of a decision by the Minister of Environment and Energy, which will set out detailed development control regulations and restrictions for the area. This is the only way to ensure complete protection, for example from the construction of planned small hydropower plants on the Aoos or its tributaries.

Alexandra Pappa, MedINA's Freshwater Programme Manager, said: “What is needed now is this bold decision by the Ministry of Environment to exclude certain areas from the construction of dozens of small hydropower plants (SHPs), currently planned in the Aoos River Basin; in particular, the Sarantaporos River sub-basin, which until now has not been covered by any protection regime. From now on, Greece, together with Albania, have a pioneering role to play in the new approach to inland water protection worldwide, where free-flowing rivers are at the centre of attention and not just part of terrestrial protected areas”.

Annette Spangenberg, Head of Conservation at EuroNatur, mentioned: “We welcome this move of the Greek government as a milestone towards the full protection of Aoos and Vjosa. Now, Greece and Albania should strive for close cooperation to create a transboundary Wild River National Park to fully ensure ecological integrity of the shared Aoos/Vjosa River Basin”.

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