The Vjosa River ecosystem in Albania will be protected – a new national park has been created


By decision of the Council of Ministers on March 13, 2023. The Vjosa, which is the last large and wild river in Europe, has been declared a national park. With this, the Albanian government reversed its decision a year ago to recognize the site as a nature park, a site with a lower category of protection.

“National park is the second category of protection, which is much higher than the form of nature park announced a year ago. We have also expanded the protection area to 12,727 hectares, which includes the entire river including its banks, the land beneath it and three tributaries: Drino, Bënçe, Shushicë,” – Mirela Kumbaro, Minister of Tourism and Environment of Albania.

Vjosa River

The Vjosa is one of the longest rivers in Albania (about 270 km). It begins its course in the Pindos Mountains in Greece and ends in the Adriatic Sea on the Albanian coast. It is considered one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, and its waters are so clean that it has remained a biodiversity hotspot. According to scientists, the Vjosa ecosystem is home to 1,100 species, 13 of which are threatened with extinction. The river also has cultural and economic value for 60,000. Albanians living in the basin area. It is also one of the last river ecosystems in Europe that has not yet been altered by human activity.

Despite the fact that the Vjosa is considered a wild river, there have been plans to build dozens of hydropower plants and dams along its course that could destroy this unique ecosystem. Declaring the river a national park is a very important step toward protecting its biodiversity.

Why the decision to declare Vjosa a national park?

For more than a decade, various environmental associations, including EuroNatur, Riverwatch, EcoAlbania, and the MAVA Foundation for Nature, have spoken out for Vjosa’s protection.

“We fought long and hard, together with our partners, for this day, with court hearings, petitions and discussions with government officials and local communities included. Today we can celebrate,” – Annette Spangenberg, Director of Marketing. Nature Conservation at EuroNatur. – “We will now continue our campaign to protect other tributaries and the river delta, so that the entire unique ecosystem of the Vjosa River will be preserved forever.”

The Vjosa River will be protected in full, according to the highest international standards. This means that no construction that affects the river, including hydropower plants, will be allowed. A management plan for the area is also expected to be drawn up soon, which will determine where ecotourism can be developed, and where strict protection will apply and any encroachment will not be allowed.

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