Global Key Biodiversity Area Of Vjosë-Nartë In Albania Is In Danger
On January 24, 2018, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania, passed with an enhanced procedure the draft law “On determining the special procedure for negotiation and conclusion of the contract between the Albanian government and the companies ‘Cengiz Construction & Kalyon & Kolin Construction’, with object: “design, construction, operation, maintenance and management of the Vlora airport”. This draft law was submitted for review and approval on January 29, 2018 in the Parliamentary Committee on Production Activity, Trade and Environment. Further on January 30, 2018 the draft law was reviewed in the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights as well as in the Committee on Economy and Finance. After reviews in the relevant committees, the law was approved by parliament, paving the way for negotiations between the Albanian government and the companies mentioned above. Negotiation of the bid for a completely private investment of about 100 million euros with the companies ‘Cengiz Construction & Kalyon & Kolin Construction’ was not achieved and thus the contract was not signed by the parties.
After that, the Albanian government opened the international tender for the construction of Vlora International Airport, leaving a deadline until March 12, 2020 for the acceptance of bids, a deadline which was further extended until March 30, 2020. Moreover, due to the pandemic situation the government decided to stop the procedure and to re-open it on November 23, 2020, leaving time for acceptance of bids up to December 23, 2020 and announce the winner in early January 2021. On 5 March 2021 the Albanian Prime minister announced the winning company, Mabetex Group, the well-known company that aimed to build the huge resort within Divjake-Karavasta National Park.
The announced plan is to build in this area the largest airport in Albania, with at least twice the size and capacity of Tirana International Airport “Mother Teresa”. The airport is also planned to be international and include cargo service and an important aircraft maintenance sector.
Vjosë-Narta is one of the most important wetland complexes, not only nationally but also internationally. Over 200 species of wild birds have been recorded in this area. Together with Divjaka-Karavasta, they form a continuous ecosystem, making for one of the most important wetlands complexes in the whole Adriatic Flyway, where hundreds of thousands of birds regularly stop each year during their migration from nesting sites to wintering areas in autumn and vice versa in the spring.
On 27th of July it was held the first consultation meeting for the Strategic Environmental Assessment, unclear and not detailed. With lack of maps and exact coordinates / borderlines.
On the 28th of November 2021, the Albanian government realized the opening ceremony for the construction site for the Vlora Airport and the construction started. Meantime, no construction permit wasn’t applied and the object was still within the borders of the protected area.
On January 2022, there were approved two decisions from the Council of Ministers on the revision of protected areas and on October 2022 it was approved the decision for the revision of the Vjosa-Narta Protected Landscape, while the airport site was ‘cut’ and was removed from those of a protected area.
In addition, on September 2022, the Bern Convention, CMS, and AEWA realize an assessment, on-the-spot appraisal, and on the 42 Standing Committee they requested the suspension of the construction and the in-depth assessment of the flora and fauna of the area.
On the other side, PPNEA and national and international environmental CSOs have realized several actions and manifestations opposing this massive grey construction. Besides open letters, meetings in high levels, demonstrations, protests etc, on November 2022 the group of environmental NGOs sued the Albanian authorities for the illegal construction of the Vlora airport. Meanwhile, on January 2023 the decision was rejected in the first instance, with the motivation that ‘NGOs as plaintiffs are not entitled to challenge the building permit because they are unaffected by it’ but we are not backing down and have filed an appeal.