V for Valbona: 14 Hydropower plants against Valbona River

V for Valbona: 14 Hydropower plants against Valbona River

By many, it is known as the gem of Albania. The Valbona Valley National Park is a “spring” of life in northern Albania that breathes its life to the country and above all the locals and those who visit it for recreation or to indulge themselves within its natural beauty. The wider mountainous area is also known as the “Albanian Alps”.

Valbona is the name of the river which flows through the Valbona Valley and the village bearing the same name located in the Tropoja District of Northern Albania. The district of Valbona Valley, bordering Kosovo to the northeast, and Montenegro to the northwest, in combination with the adjacent Theth district to the west, encompasses a region called the Malësi in Albanian, which translates roughly as ‘The Highlands'”, panacomp.net reads.

This sensational work of nature is “under attack” and definitely endangered by man’s wishes.

Various campaigners and environmentalists have joined forces in order to try save it from the government’s plans that consist of the construction of 14 hydropower plants in total.

Valbona river

“A river’s own protest”

One such protest that aimed at awakening high officials and make them review -in order to overturn their decision regarding the hydro plants- was a May 24 project, coordinated by cultural representatives from Albania and abroad and foreign funding.

Valbona River ‘travelled’ to Tirana’s Skanderbeg Square, to “protest” against the hydropower constructions threatening 30km of its length. Under attack by a proposed 14 hydropower plants – three of which are already under construction.

Andi Tepelena (representative of the independent cultural scene in Albania), Adelina Stuparu, and the NGO TOKA from Valbona were the heart and soul of the project which was made a dream come true in the centre of the Albanian capital, Tirana, thanks to the financial support from the Berlin-based Guerrilla Foundation, Lush UK, Heinrich Boell Foundation (Sarajevo Office), and many donors from the Netherlands who contributed financially to small grants administered by the Het Actiefonds Foundation.

The organisers said that the symbolic V for Valbona monument, placed at the centre of the square was covered in blue siren alarms portraying the urgency to act to save the river and National Park.

Contemporary artist Klod Dedja’s concept for the sound and visual installation transferred the river symbolically and holographically from the National Park into Skanderbeg Square, to the centre of Albania’s capital. The installation consisted of flow projections as a video frame, composed of many video image artilleries. The surround sound system reproduced the original sound of the river.

The river’s humming… listen to it… it’s alone, helpless!

Hydropower plants come with risks and most of them concern the environment they will be constructed it. The Valbona river is no exception.

According to the event’s press release, there is a lot at stake, and scientists confirm their concerns. A recent study revealed that 49 European freshwater species would either become extinct or lose 50 to 100% of their Balkan distribution due to cumulative hydropower projects in the region. The proliferation of hydropower should additionally consider climate change: South East Europe faced severe droughts last year, resulting in energy crises, due to lack of water resources which stalked electricity production at hydropower plants. Yet, the number of small hydropower plants are constantly increasing, despite risks.

The river protest was an appeal to decision-makers to halt construction of hydropower plants in the National Park, to allow the legal appeals to proceed, to protect the river, the unique ecosystem it supports and the local community that lives within the park.

Petition to Edi Rama

One of the organisers said, “Apart from the visual and sound installation, we also projected the petition addressed to Edi Rama, to pause the construction of hydropower plants, currently under way in the National Park. For the petition, which is hosted on TOKA’s website, we programmed a ‘live count’ with a message. The count was directly connected to the petition, and the number of signatories and supporters of the National Park is being updated in real time, (and so was it during the project, on the square). We got a lot of support in this way; more than 850 people signed the petition on the day of the event.” …. / IBNA

At the moment the article was being written, the number of people who had signed the petition were well over 2 400.

All Photos: Courtesy of the organising team