European Rewilding Network
062

Save the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania

Protecting biodiversity along Albania’s Vjosa River

Untamed and free-flowing, the Vjosa river represents one of the last wild river ecosystems in Europe. It rises in Greece, where it is called the Aoos, and runs for 80 kilometers before it reaches Albania. Image by: Gregor Šubić
Gregor Šubić
The initiative is working to protect the biodiversity of Vjosa rivers by halting widespread dam construction.
EcoAlbania
In Albania the Vjosa is characterised by beautiful canyons, braided river sections, islands and stretches, while in some areas the riverbed expands to more than 2 kilometres in width.
Gregor Šubić
The biodiversity of Balkan rivers and connected habitats, as well as livelihoods in local communities, is threatened by nearly 2,800 hydropower plants projected and planned for development over the next few years.
EcoAlbania
New species of fish found in Vjosa river.
Wolfram Graf

The aim of the project is to protect biodiversity along Albania’s Vjosa River by stopping plans for hydropower development, establishing a transboundary national park, and promoting sustainable, socio-economic development of the river and surrounding areas.

Rewilding is about reconnecting modern societies – both rural and urban – with wilder nature. While the Save the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania project focuses on protecting the Vjosa rather than rewilding it, it will generate a sense of pride, common ownership and responsibility for wild nature amongst land owners, communities and resource users. This will hopefully lead to the development of nature-based economies tied to sustainable use of the river and the riverine environment.

The following outcomes are being targeted: the establishment of a Vjosa transboundary national Park, the banning of all hydropower plants on the river, the creation of a strategy for nature-based tourism development in the Vjosa Valley, and the closure of knowledge gaps regarding the river’s geomorphology and biodiversity through scientific surveys and studies.

Project: Save the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania
Region: Albania
Type of protection: Working on establishing a trans-boundary National Park
Keystone species: Otter, vultures, wolf, ell, trout
Type of project: Projects creating local pride and common ownership and responsibility for wild nature amongst land owners, communities and resource users, leading to new alternative uses
Aim and vision: The project and the entire campaign aims to save the unique Balkan rivers by preserving the most valuable course and extension these rivers have regarding their ecology and biodiversity. Saving the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania works on preservation for the benefit of nature, biodiversity, and people for whom these rivers have a deep symbolic and cultural value. The project is planned to be finalized by 2020 until when the following actions are planned; establishing the Vjosa transboundary National Park, banning the projects of Hydro Power Plants in Vjosa river, developing a strategy for sustainable development of the Vjosa Valley through eco-tourism and lastly closing geo-morphological and biodiversity knowledge gaps on the Vjosa river through completing the full cycle of the studies on the river.
Establishing the transboundary national park of Vjosa river from Greece to Albania and developing a plan for the sustainable socio-economic development of the river, available for future generations.
Uniqueness of the project: The uniqueness of this project lies in the fact that Vjosa is considered to be the Last Biggest Wild River in Europe and saving is a must and if done properly is definitely a victory to preservation of nature and wilderness in Europe.
Other activities: Community involved, Education, Research
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: The projects works on the ban of the Hydro Power Plant (HPP) projects planned for Vjosa river (by involving Vjosa as a No-Go zone for HPP projects) and wants to establish transboundary Vjosa National Park. In addition, geo-morphological and biodiversity full cycle studies on the river will close the knowledge gaps on the Vjosa river. Lastly, the project develops a strategy for the sustainable development of the Vjosa valley through eco-tourism and supports the local communities.
Results so far: So far project won the legal battle against government in the Administrative Court of First Instance, Tirana. The court decided in favour of the local community and NGOs by local the construction of Poçemi HPP. Thanks to EcoAlbania and other partners’ persistent work with reports, informing and lobbying, a FFM from Bern Convention was carried out in Vjosa river in order to investigate to which extent plans for hydropower development are jeopardizing the objectives of the Bern Convention.
Inspirational value: Working with the local community to inform/make them aware of the need to protect the river wilderness is difficult but the most important thing in an environmental campaign. Protecting the wild nature (such as valuable river Vjosa, the last biggest wild river remained) is not something that could be done only by the activists of an NGO and the local communities: it requests efforts from larger communities like artists, scientists, politicians, journalists, international communities and NGOs and similar actors willing to offer their expertise and raise their voice on the responsibility that everyone should have for wild nature.
Experience you would like to share: Among other, EcoAlbania worked so far in preserving wilderness of the river with different stakeholders. The project members are eager to share experience and know-how in lobbying to the international institutions, working and communicating with various local communities and engaging in legal and civic matters.
Experience you would like to gain: Anything that would further help us in our campaign such as: new expertise and practices on topics relating to rewilding offered by ERN members.
Map
Country
Albania
Start year
2014
Size (ha)
670 000
Natural process
Flooding, River dynamics
Flagship species
Other, Otter, Vulture, Wolf
Save the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania
Save the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania
Untamed and free-flowing, the Vjosa river represents one of the last wild river ecosystems in Europe. It rises in Greece, where it is called the Aoos, and runs for 80 kilometers before it reaches Albania. Image by: Gregor Šubić
Gregor Šubić
The initiative is working to protect the biodiversity of Vjosa rivers by halting widespread dam construction.
EcoAlbania
In Albania the Vjosa is characterised by beautiful canyons, braided river sections, islands and stretches, while in some areas the riverbed expands to more than 2 kilometres in width.
Gregor Šubić
The biodiversity of Balkan rivers and connected habitats, as well as livelihoods in local communities, is threatened by nearly 2,800 hydropower plants projected and planned for development over the next few years.
EcoAlbania
New species of fish found in Vjosa river.
Wolfram Graf

The aim of the project is to protect biodiversity along Albania’s Vjosa River by stopping plans for hydropower development, establishing a transboundary national park, and promoting sustainable, socio-economic development of the river and surrounding areas.

Rewilding is about reconnecting modern societies – both rural and urban – with wilder nature. While the Save the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania project focuses on protecting the Vjosa rather than rewilding it, it will generate a sense of pride, common ownership and responsibility for wild nature amongst land owners, communities and resource users. This will hopefully lead to the development of nature-based economies tied to sustainable use of the river and the riverine environment.

The following outcomes are being targeted: the establishment of a Vjosa transboundary national Park, the banning of all hydropower plants on the river, the creation of a strategy for nature-based tourism development in the Vjosa Valley, and the closure of knowledge gaps regarding the river’s geomorphology and biodiversity through scientific surveys and studies.

Map
Country
Albania
Start year
2014
Size (ha)
670 000
Natural process
Flooding, River dynamics
Flagship species
Other, Otter, Vulture, Wolf
Specification
Project: Save the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania
Region: Albania
Type of protection: Working on establishing a trans-boundary National Park
Keystone species: Otter, vultures, wolf, ell, trout
Description
Type of project: Projects creating local pride and common ownership and responsibility for wild nature amongst land owners, communities and resource users, leading to new alternative uses
Aim and vision: The project and the entire campaign aims to save the unique Balkan rivers by preserving the most valuable course and extension these rivers have regarding their ecology and biodiversity. Saving the Blue Heart of Europe – Albania works on preservation for the benefit of nature, biodiversity, and people for whom these rivers have a deep symbolic and cultural value. The project is planned to be finalized by 2020 until when the following actions are planned; establishing the Vjosa transboundary National Park, banning the projects of Hydro Power Plants in Vjosa river, developing a strategy for sustainable development of the Vjosa Valley through eco-tourism and lastly closing geo-morphological and biodiversity knowledge gaps on the Vjosa river through completing the full cycle of the studies on the river.
Establishing the transboundary national park of Vjosa river from Greece to Albania and developing a plan for the sustainable socio-economic development of the river, available for future generations.
Uniqueness of the project: The uniqueness of this project lies in the fact that Vjosa is considered to be the Last Biggest Wild River in Europe and saving is a must and if done properly is definitely a victory to preservation of nature and wilderness in Europe.
Other activities: Community involved, Education, Research
Achievements
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: The projects works on the ban of the Hydro Power Plant (HPP) projects planned for Vjosa river (by involving Vjosa as a No-Go zone for HPP projects) and wants to establish transboundary Vjosa National Park. In addition, geo-morphological and biodiversity full cycle studies on the river will close the knowledge gaps on the Vjosa river. Lastly, the project develops a strategy for the sustainable development of the Vjosa valley through eco-tourism and supports the local communities.
Results so far: So far project won the legal battle against government in the Administrative Court of First Instance, Tirana. The court decided in favour of the local community and NGOs by local the construction of Poçemi HPP. Thanks to EcoAlbania and other partners’ persistent work with reports, informing and lobbying, a FFM from Bern Convention was carried out in Vjosa river in order to investigate to which extent plans for hydropower development are jeopardizing the objectives of the Bern Convention.
Exchange
Inspirational value: Working with the local community to inform/make them aware of the need to protect the river wilderness is difficult but the most important thing in an environmental campaign. Protecting the wild nature (such as valuable river Vjosa, the last biggest wild river remained) is not something that could be done only by the activists of an NGO and the local communities: it requests efforts from larger communities like artists, scientists, politicians, journalists, international communities and NGOs and similar actors willing to offer their expertise and raise their voice on the responsibility that everyone should have for wild nature.
Experience you would like to share: Among other, EcoAlbania worked so far in preserving wilderness of the river with different stakeholders. The project members are eager to share experience and know-how in lobbying to the international institutions, working and communicating with various local communities and engaging in legal and civic matters.
Experience you would like to gain: Anything that would further help us in our campaign such as: new expertise and practices on topics relating to rewilding offered by ERN members.
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