IBNA Special Report/Residents of Great Diber in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and those in neighboring Albania, express their concern if the project for the diversion of Radika river is applied. Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati says that the speculation is mixed with genuine concerns. Counterpart Nikola Poposki says that there is no decision yet. The World Bank is ready to fund the 83 million Euro project. Former PM Berisha says that Tito’s agreement in the framework of Yugoslavia is void. Activist Sazan Guri says that Radika’s deviation is a violation of international rights. Prof. Dr. Abdyl Koleci from the “Alliance against the deviation of rivers” warns that “we may take the Radika problem to Strasbourg”
Tirana, January 28, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
One of the main issues which are being debated by Albanian citizens as far as relations with Skopje are concerned, is the management of lakes and rivers that the two countries share.
Albanian Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati says that this issue has been a fair concern for the public opinion, but adds that they have partially been a source of speculation.
In the meeting held at the beginning of the week, Bushati and his counterpart Nikola Poposki, have discussed a great deal on this issue.
“With colleague Poposki we agreed on a joint approach as far as the management of water reserves and the integrated monitoring of Ohrid Lake, Prespa and Drin River is concerned”, says Mr. Bushati.
In fact, there’s a complete international framework on this issue, that binds both FYROM and Albania. But, international financial institutions which have backed the project that relates to the management of waters, must follow a process that secures the implementation of international standards.
This is also admitted by Mr. Bushati. He says that he and Poposki have agreed on improving the legal framework for both countries.
The river that sparked the conflict
Radika River is the main river of Diber and not only the Diber inhabited by Macedonians, but also the small Diber in Albania. Experts say that residents are damaged a lot by the project of Fushe Lukova and the diversions to Aegean Sea. The World Bank has received the project and funding has been requested.
But, some experts say that there are four international conventions for the protection of environment and waters, that the Fushe Lukova project openly violates.
This, due to the fact that “Radika” project takes a significant amount of water from the Black Drin river. Such thing cannot be done without an agreement.
But does an agreement exist?
Former PM, Sali Berisha, told IBNA that there has been an agreement in principle between Skopje and Tirana on Radika river. But what is the truth of this issue? Mr. Berisha says: “Eight years in a row, in every meeting, I have asked to prime ministers of neighboring countries, to sit down and discuss and negotiate the water agreement, because Tito’s agreement is not a good agreement. Surprisingly, they never sat down and this problem was avoided”.
Berisha suggests the Albanian government to start talks with Skopje: “Agreements with former Yugoslavia do not exist, because after it was dissolved, the agreements must be reconfirmed by all sides”.
For the democrat MP, Radika is a project that “punishes a population and an environment”, therefore according to him, this project “cannot be implemented”.
Thus, Berisha has an advice not only for Skopje, but for the Balkan in general: “I think that the countries of the region must give up on diverting natural river beds that join them, because this may create serious aggravations. The peace that has been achieved must be capitalized, in the best interest of the development of these countries and not cause fresh problems”.
Skopje is yet to have a final decision
But, is Skopje withdrawing from the project of the diversion of Radika river?
Foreign Minister Poposki says that this potentially a project for the expansion of the river stream in the electric energy field. According to him, the most important aspect of this project is the funding from the World Bank. And the main issue here is the assessment of the impact that this project has in the environment.
Poposki admits that there is no final decision yet: “We’re in the last stages of the completion of the report on the assessment of the impact on environment. Based on the conclusions that will come out, we will decide if the project will be implemented or not. If the conclusions are positive, then we can go on with the project. If there are negative implications, then no. Everything will be undertaken based on this assessment of international institutions and every other speculation would be wrong”, declared Poposki. According to him, Skopje “is worried more than anybody else about such project that directly affects the environment”.
Bushati: Radika will undergo several tests
Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati says that the Albanian government, demands a management in compliance with international law and international legislation that binds the two countries in regards to water sources, including Ohrid, Prespa, Drin, etc, and not only for Radika.
He tries to assure Albanians that Radika will undergo several tests “that relate to the common interest” of the countries that are involved in the implementation of this project.
Citizens and NGOs very sensitive on Radika
Radika project has an estimated value of 83 million USD and aims to divert rivers Radika and Vjosa. This plan has sparked protests in both countries. Activists are against the plan to divert the river. They say that if the project is implemented, then a local referendum will be demanded.
Activist Sazan Guri said that water is an untouchable ecological element and that its deviation is a violation of international law.
“These changes in the stream of rivers Radika and Vjosa are damaging for the environment in the respective countries, regardless of the magnitude of this deviation, let alone that such thing would cause significant damages for the Albanian economy”.
Guri said that “deviation of rivers is allowed neither by international treaties, nor by EU directives on environment”.
Experts from the “Alliance against the deviation of rivers” explain that three important areas of the country, Elbasan, Peshkopi and Diber are situated on the same tectonic plate and if Radika river is dried up, then underground waters are endangered, thus causing earthquakes. They recall the 1967 earthquake, the strongest in the past 100 years in Albania, causing significant damages in Diber. Experts of this environmentalist organization say that the cause of the earthquake at that time related to the construction of several hydro power plants by FYROM.
On the other hand, experts also talk about economic damages. They say that the deviation would cause a significant reduction of the drinking water in Albania, adding that “with the deviation of Radika river, Albania would suffer a loss of 250 million kilowatt hours worth of energy a year”.
In an effort to increase international awareness, Prof. Dr. Abdyl Koleci from the “Alliance against the deviation of rivers”, said that “we will take Radika’s problem to Strasbourg”. /ibna/