A group of environmental NGO-s bring up the issue of protected areas at the table of the new Minister of Environment and Tourism

A group of environmental NGO-s bring up the issue of protected areas at the table of the new Minister of Environment and Tourism
A number of Civil Society Organizations, active in the field of nature conservation, on Friday 29th, held a meeting with Ms. Kumbaro, the Minister of Tourism and Environment. The meeting was requested by about 50 organizations part of the grouping for the cause of protection of protected areas (PA) from the improper process of reviewing the borders of protected areas, initiated by the Ministry of Tourism and Environment since 2019.

As in the last two years, the group of NGOs was extremely critical of the process followed by the Ministry and the impact of this process, especially in the coastal wetlands that are also considered the epicenter of Albania’s biological diversity. The NGOs reaffirmed that:
1. The process followed by the Ministry is contrary to the legislation on Protected Areas and the entire legal framework for public consultation that guarantees transparency in decision-making;
2. The consequences this non-compliant and scientifically unfounded reassessment of Protected Areas are extremely negative for the national biological diversity and especially for the wetland areas that are also international PAs (Ramsar, IBA, KBA, Emerald and Natura 2000).

Almost the same attitude is held by international institutions:
1. Addressing the event in detail, the EU Delegation to Albania states in its recent progress report (2021) that the National Council of the Territory has approved without public consultation the revised map of PAs by fragmenting and reducing them and violating ecological functionality of PAs. The EU urges Albania to listen to the scientific community and other stakeholders in the country.
2. Also, major donors in the field of nature conservation see the process and plans with a strong impact on biodiversity and not transparent.

Based on the above, we described the process as illegal and with wrong content. Therefore, we asked the Ministry not to rush the process of reviewing Protected Areas.

Likewise, we provided the Ministry with our views as follows:
1. To draft in advance a specific plan of PAs in accordance with the law on Protected Areas. This plan should be drafted in cooperation with the civil society. The plan should also indicate the need to change, remove and add protected areas.
2. To conduct the study for the review of the surface of the protected areas. For each PA there should be a specific group of experts to contribute with data and comments on the surface, habitats, species and internal zoning of each protected area.
3. To not violate any surface of any protected area before the completion of the Plan and the re-completion of the surface review process.

We thank the Minister Kumbaro for the opportunity of this meeting which was considered by her as only a first step of cooperation with this part of civil society. We also greatly appreciate her desire for other thematic meetings. But, our visit and our requests for more than two years are related to the inviolability of protected areas, especially coastal wetland protected areas.

Unfortunately, Minister Kumbaro did not express her readiness to start reviewing the decision of the National Council of Territory that reduces, causes fragmentation of protected areas and leads to degradation of biological diversity. Fortunately, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment still has in its hands to disapprove legally the wrong decision of the National Council of Territory.

If the will does not exist, then NGOs will pursue their mission in defense of the public good through an active campaign for the protection of protected areas and the use of all forms of administrative and legal complaint.

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