A pipe for Prime Minister Edi Rama

Residents of the Shushica valley deliver an unusual petition to stop water abstraction from Vjosa Wild River National Park.

People are protesting in Tirana against Himara project

Representatives of the affected communities travelled to Tirana to hand over the pipe petition to PM Edi Rama.

© Klajdi Vaja
Pipe with signings on the roof of a car

Around 1,500 people from 37 villages signed the pipe petition when it toured through the valley.

© Geri Bleta
Excavator during construction work on the Himara Water Extraction Project on the Shushica River

The Austrian company STRABAG has been laying these pipes to divert the spring water of the Shushica to the Mediterranean coast.

© Ulrich Eichelmann

Last Saturday, representatives of the local communities of the Shushica river valley and other locals from Vlora and Vjosa valley travelled to Tirana to hand over a special petition to their Prime Minister Edi Rama: a blue pipe adorned with 1,500 signatures – the same kind of pipe which is threatening their valley and a part of the newly established Vjosa National Park. 

Around 1,500 people from 37 villages in the valley have united in a powerful statement against the water abstraction project from the Shushica River. Their signatures now cover the blue pipe that symbolizes their collective voice. Over the past two weeks, this pipe has traveled through the heart of the valley, passing through  a lot of villages. With each stop, more signatures were added, urging the Prime Minister to halt the project.

“We came to Tirana to show our determination. We don´t want this project to be implemented. Our village and all the others will be affected by the diversion of the Lepusha source. Shushica is part of the national park and should be protected”, says Astrit Balilaj, Mayor of Kuç village. 

The blue pipes are a symbol of the destructive project. For the past six months, the Austrian company STRABAG has been laying these pipes to divert the spring water of the Shushica to the Mediterranean coast, aiming to meet the demands of large-scale tourism there.

“The construction on site must stop immediately. This project will destroy a whole valley by leaving the people, livestock, and land without water. We will not allow this to happen, we are determined to stop the construction if we are not heard today. We are not against water for Himara, but we are a national park region, and we can’t let this happen to our Shushica”, says Lela Qejvani, a local activist. 

The Shushica is one of the main tributaries to the Vjosa Wild River National Park – a very rich biodiversity hotspot. “This diversion project is not only destructive but also unnecessary. There are ample alternative water sources outside the national park’s boundaries to meet Himara's needs, should it be required. Alongside the residents of the Shushica, we are legally opposing the project in the Administrative Court. says Olsi Nika form EcoAlbania. 

“If this project proceeds, the Shushica—or at least large parts of it—will have to lose its national park status. This would be a significant loss for both nature and the local communities, who would miss out on the benefits of national park tourism. Ultimately, this is also a choice between ecotourism and succumbing to mass tourism.” says Ulrich Eichelmann from the NGO Riverwatch. 

"The Vjosa River was declared a National Park not only to protect the main river but also to safeguard a vibrant and intact river ecosystem, of which the Shushica is a crucial component. Water abstraction from the Shushica will pose a significant threat to the ecological integrity of the Vjosa Wild River National Park.", says Annette Spangenberg, from the NGO EuroNatur

Backround information

  • The Shushica – including its springs – is an important tributary of the Vjosa and part of Europe's first Wild River National Park since March 2023. The water diversion project is being financed by the German development bank KfW and the EU (Western Balkans Investment Framework) while the construction work is done by the Austrian STRABAG. The project is currently under construction. 

  • The Vjosa is the last big wild river in Europe outside Russia. Along her course of almost 270 kilometers, the river flows entirely unobstructed from the Pindus Mountains to the Adriatic Sea. In March 2023, after ten years of our campaign, the Albanian government proclaimed Europe’s first Wild River National Park.

  • The initiative to protect the Vjosa is part of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, organized by Riverwatch and EuroNatur. In Albania, the local partner is EcoAlbania. In our efforts to protect the Vjosa as a National Park, we partnered with outdoor company Patagonia.

  • The “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign is supported amongst others by the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung.

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