In relation to its size Albania is very rich in rivers, estimated about 721 km without calculating the myriad of streams. The rivers are very important since they are complex ecological systems due to the diversity of aquatic habitats embedded within them and adjacent wetlands. Rivers are likely to be the most threatened natural environment in Albania.
Among the biggest current threats to the aquatic natural heritage of the Albanian nature is a wave of planned hydropower stations. Hydropower dams have a significant impact on the river ecosystem and the longitudinal continuum for living organisms and sediments. They can also negatively impact wild terrestrial animals including large carnivores. This leads to a loss of ecological integrity, river degradation, and consequently a decrease in biodiversity.
Two large braided rivers in Albania, the Vijosa and Devoll Rivers, will be interrupted by major dams. PPNEA together with its international partner EuroNatur has started rising awareness since 2011 in order to halt the construction of these dams and on the dramatic situation which is caused by the HEC concessions in the country.
The actions to safeguard the rivers are oriented toward:
- Establishing scientific evidence: of the outstanding ecological value of rivers.
- Pursuing international public relations: in order to generate a wide-spread awareness of these unique natural treasures.
- Political lobbying: We want the Albanian government to stop this uncoordinated frenzy of hydropower plant construction and to adapt the energy planning to the genuine needs of the population.
- Trouble-shooting: Wherever dams are planned in especially ecologically valuable river reaches (for instance in the Vjosa River Valley), we are working to stop these projects in cooperation with our partners.
Sooner or later, Albania will be member of the European Union and will have to comply fully with the Water Framework and Habitats Directives. Preventing damage to river systems today will save future costs of measures to improve the ecological status and will preserve the last “river jewels” of the country for generations to come.