Press Release – Airport construction threatens Albanian bird paradise

Press Release – Airport construction threatens Albanian bird paradise

Joint press release by EuroNatur and PPNEA

12 May 2023

Airport construction threatens Albanian bird Paradise

Construction work for airport in Narta Lagoon continues unabated despite significant protests. Resting area is internationally important for hundreds of thousands of waterbirds. 13 May is World Migratory Bird Day.

Vlora, Tirana, Radolfzell. To mark World Migratory Bird Day on 13 May, internationally active nature conservation foundation EuroNatur and its Albanian partner organisation PPNEA (Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania) are drawing attention to a major threat to Europe’s migratory birds: the Albanian government is persisting with the construction of an airport in the Narta Lagoon. The Vjosa – one of Europe’s last large, unobstructed wild rivers which was declared a national park on 15 March this year – flows into the Adriatic here, on a largely unspoilt stretch of coastline. The 42 km² wetland plays a central role in bird migration along the Adriatic coast and is, among other things, an important feeding ground for endangered Dalmatian pelicans.

Although the Narta Lagoon enjoys national and international protected status, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama is currently having an airport built in this very area, in order to boost tourism in the south of the country. Massive protests against these plans have not only come from Albanian nature conservation organisations. The Bern Convention, one of the most important nature conservation conventions for the protection of biodiversity in Europe, also sharply criticised the planned airport construction at its Bureau meeting at the end of March 2023. The Bern Convention also made reference to the Vjosa National Park. It said this exemplary process can only be completed when the entire delta of the Vjosa, including the site of the planned airport, is fully protected. The Albanian authorities were once again urged to halt the construction of the Vlora airport in the Vjosa Delta.

“These very clear statements from the Bern Convention leave no doubt whatsoever that construction work on this illegal large-scale project must stop immediately,” says Annette Spangenberg, Head of Nature Conservation at EuroNatur. “The Bern Convention thus joins a long list of those criticising the airport. Prime Minister Edi Rama should now finally act.”

Latest figures obtained from the two-week-long bird census carried out in April this year prove the ecological value of the Narta Lagoon. “In just 14 days, we discovered more than 110 different bird species, including endangered species such as the wood sandpiper and the stone curlew,” says Zydjon Vorpsi from PPNEA. “If you consider that, in spring, bird migration lasts for about three months, you can imagine how many species and individuals use the Narta Lagoon as a resting area. If an airport were to start operating here, it would put an end to this impressive spectacle,” the ornithologist adds.

Background information:

  • Adriatic Flyway: Many of the waterbirds from Central, Northern and Eastern Europe use the migratory route known as the “Adriatic Flyway” which crosses the Balkans, the Adriatic Sea and Southern Italy to reach North Africa. One of the most important resting areas on this route is the Narta Lagoon on the Albanian coast.
  • World Migratory Bird Day: is celebrated on two Saturdays every year – in May and in October – to highlight the need for international cooperation in migratory bird conservation. Events include bird festivals, educational programmes and film screenings. This year, the day has the short but succinct theme of “Water”.
  • Vjosa was declared a national park on 15 march 2023 – a huge success. However, this is being counteracted by plans for the construction of an airport close to the estuary area of the Vjosa. 
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