Leter derguar komisionereve te BE/parlamentareve/delegacionit te BE, si dhe letren ambasadave ne Shqiperi per aeroportin e Vjose-Nartes
Subject: Support the protection of the internationally important Vjosa-Narta Protected Area in Albania from intensive infrastructure development plans
This letter is being extended to express our deep concern about the issue of protecting natural values, a fundamental concern which affects all of us. As civil society organizations, who have a duty to act in cases of destruction plans in protected areas, we recognize the role that wetlands, such as ‘’Vjosa-Narta’’ Protected Area, play on protecting biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem services.
‘Vjosa-Narta’ is one of the most important sites in the whole Mediterranean - Black Sea Flyway, where thousands of birds that breed in your country, stop-over twice a year in their way to the wintering grounds in Africa. However, a serious threat is posed to this important wetland from the Albanian government. There are intensive infrastructure development plans for constructing an international airport and touristic resorts, that will irreversibly damage the natural values of the area, hence, it affects the biodiversity of your country and the entire continent.
However, it is with deep concern that we inform you that, in spite of the clearly articulated concern and the joint efforts of many national and international institutions and academics to show that such plans would damage the natural heritage of the site, the Albanian government is not backing away from the plans to develop this infrastructure within the protected area. On 5th of March 2021, the Albanian government announced the winning company publicly, with the promise of the construction work to start very soon. The announced plan is to build in this area the largest airport in Albania, including a cargo service, an aircraft maintenance sector and a mass tourism complex and marina on the seaside of the protected area.
Based on the information available so far, neither a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) nor an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) have been carried out for the construction of Vlora International Airport in this area. This concern was also highlighted in the EU country report 2020, where it was clearly stated that immediate measures must be taken to review and improve environmental and strategic impact assessments on existing and planned projects, plans and programmes, especially in construction and tourism.
We would like to bring to your attention the importance that this site has on the national and international level. Vjosa-Narta is a protected area in Albania with the status Protected Landscape/Seascape (IUCN Category V). Furthermore, it is recognized as important for nature and biodiversity on an international level being: (i) an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area; (ii) a global Key Biodiversity Area, (iii) a Candidate Emerald site and (iv) a candidate for a proposed Site of Community Importance.
The area is home to more than 200 bird species. Out of these, 123 species are listed in the Appendix II of ‘Bern Convention’ , which Albania has ratified. Further to that, 43 species are listed in the Appendix I of Emerald Network . Meanwhile, with regard to bird populations within the EU, 23 species are of particular conservation interest . Finally, 62 species are listed in Annex 1 of the Birds Directive . The area regularly sustains important portions of over 1% of the European populations for several species, such as the case for Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) and Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus).
The Albanian government has been consistently ignoring our calls for the reconsideration of these plans within the protected area. Lately, our coalition of national and international organizations working for nature conservation in Europe has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama on February 1st, 2021, which was again ignored. No consultations or discussions with the main nature conservation actors and experts in Albania have taken place in the project planning phase and the selection of the location for the future airport.
We ask for your support to urge the Albanian government to respect its national laws and the international conventions it has ratified, and to reconsider the construction plans of the airport and touristic resorts within the Vjosa-Narta Protected Landscape. The European Union but also the international donor’s community have provided substantial financial support to the Albanian government to protect its natural and biodiversity values. On one hand the Albanian government is happy and willing to receive this support, but on the other hand its decisions for infrastructure development within protected areas go against this support and completely disregard the international community’s efforts for protecting the country’s natural values.
We consider your support in joining our cause, that the airport within Vjosa-Narta Protected Area conflicts with national laws and international biodiversity agreements, and send a notification to the Albanian government to reconsider its constructions plans in this area.
We are convinced that with your support the Albanian government will reconsider its decision and prioritize nature conservation over intensive development within the protected area.
Please your Excellency, accept our distinguishing gratitude for your attention to this case. We kindly ask to be informed accordingly with regard to the actions from your side.
The coalition of NGOs for the protection of Vjosa-Narta:
Albanian Ornithological Society
Albanian Society for the Protection of Birds and Mammals
Albanian Wildlife Rescue Team
Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia
BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
Birds of Albania
Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds
Center for Environment, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Centre for Study and Protection of Birds (CZIP), Montenegro
EDEN Centre, Albania
ERA Group, Kosovo
Finch NGO, Kosovo
Green Home NGO, Montenegro
Hellenic Ornithological Society
ILIRIA – Protection and Social & Environmental Development Association, Albania
Institute for Nature Conservation in Albania
Institute for Environmental Policy, Albania
Kosovo Ecologists Society
Lets Do It Peja, Kosovo
Macedonian Ecological Society
Ornithological Society “Naše ptice”, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania
Res Publica Center, Albania
Resource Environmental Centre, Albania
Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP), Greece
Society of Independent Intellectuals Deçan, Kosovo
Sustainability Leadership Kosovo
Vulture Conservation Foundation, Switzerland
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Adria)
Wildlife – Albanian Photographers
Young Researchers of Serbia
Youth Ecological and Security Zone- EcoZ, Kosovo