In an open letter to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, nearly 150 national and international NGOs, are asking the Albanian government to stop the construction of hydropower plants (HPPs) on the Vjosa river.
According to a press release from EcoAlbania, the Vjosa river is a hotspot for biodiversity and home to many endangered species in Europe, but there are currently 45 HPPs projected – 8 at the Vjosa main course and 37 at her tributaries.
“We, the national and international environmental organizations, call on you, Prime Minister Edi Rama to immediately suspend all ongoing hydropower developments in the Vjosa catchment until a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment and an integrated River Basin Management Plan, which takes into account social aspects, particularly the potential of ecotourism, has been elaborated,” the letter reads.
The NGOs are particularly concerned about the ongoing implementation process for the HPP Kalivaç: the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study for the project is scheduled to be conducted within approximately three months, an unrealistic timespan to prepare a profundal EIA for a project of such size, the letter underlines.
According to the letter, the Albanian government supports the implementation of HPP Kalivaç, despite the fact that international institutions – amongst them the European Commission and the European Parliament – have been criticizing these developments repeatedly.
HPP Kalivac – arbitration, new investor, complaint
The investor in HPP Kalivac is a Turkish-Albanian consortium Ayen Enerji & Fusha which won a contract for the construction and operation of a 120 MW HPP, with a 35-year concession period, in November 2017. Two months later, the Republic of Albania won an arbitration over HPP Kalivac against Italy’s Hydro S.R.L. The case started in 2014.
In February this year, Albanian Energy and Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku said she will freeze work on new HPPs and launch an investigation into 182 licenses issued to build 440 HPPs.
However, that same month, EcoAlbania, Riverwatch and EuroNatur sent a complaint to the Energy Community against the Albanian Government over procedures for the Kalivac and Pocem hydropower projects.