: Albania: Lawsuit against hydropower project on the Vjosa has
on Europe's last wild river was intended to be realised without
adequate environmental assessment or civic participation. A Legal
precedent for rule of law in Albania.
December 2, 2016.
The planned destruction of the Vjosa, one of Europe's last big wild
rivers, is now being challenged in court. Today, the nature conservation
organisations EcoAlbania, Riverwatch and EuroNatur, as well as 38
affected residents filed a lawsuit against the projected hydropower
plant "Poçem" on the Vjosa with the Albanian Administrative
Court. In it, the plaintiffs demand the suspension of any decisions
and permits for this dam project, which was to be constructed by
a Turkish consortium. "We are determined to defend this claim
through every instance of the legal system. After all, it is to
protect one of the most valuable nature areas in Europe," says
Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the "Save the Blue Heart
of Europe" campaign at Riverwatch.
Grounds of this lawsuit are manifold. The Environmental Impact Assessment
(EIA) accepted by Albanian authorities is utterly inadequate: more
than 60% of the EIA was simply copied word-for-word from other projects,
flora and fauna was not even assessed at all, etc. Nevertheless,
the authors of the assessment reached a positive conclusion for
the project. Prof. Friedrich Schiemer from Vienna, who analyzed
the EIA together with colleagues from Albania, Germany and Austria,
confirms: "I have never seen such a poor EIA, the text is a
farce. The EIA must be repeated and carried out according to international
standards." Just recently, the European Commission has also
sharply criticized Albania for the low quality of EIAs in Albania.
of this lawsuit is the fact that affected residents were not informed.
In the village of Kutë, a majority of fields and olive plantations
would drown in the 2,400 hectare reservoir; 90 individuals would
have to be relocated. Nevertheless, nobody from the village was
informed to date. A legally required resident information event
did indeed take place; however, it was set an hour's drive away
and did not include residents actually affected by the project.
like that is not the exception in Albania, but rather the rule.
Therefore, this lawsuit is not only imperative for the future of
the Vjosa and its residents, but also for nature protection and
the administration of justice in Albania in general. Attorney Vladimir
Meçi, who prepared this lawsuit, affirms: "Our laws
are not poor, but they are too often ignored by investors, authorities
and politicians. This disregard must stop or we will destroy our
entire country. The Poçem case is thus a legal touchstone
for the rule of law in Albania."
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 is currently about 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.
Ulrich Eichelmann Riverwatch, firstname.lastname@example.org, +43
Olsi Nika EcoAlbania, email@example.com +355 69 29 44 757
Vladimir Meçi Attorney, firstname.lastname@example.org
source : Riverwatch
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