Filing of Lawsuit to Protect Valbona Valley National Park from Hydropower Development
The plaintiffs are requesting that the court declare the absolute invalidity of the concession contract, as well as the permits issued under the contract including the environmental permit, the construction permit and the permit to use water reserves. This judicial step is the result of a series of serious material and procedural violations by the Ministry of Economy and Industry, the Ministry of Environment, the National Environment Agency, the National Territorial Council, the Territorial Development Agency and the Drin-Buna River Basin Council. In an open and flagrant opposition to the Law on Protected Areas, the above institutions have supported a major construction project in a protected environmental and tourist area, the Valbona Valley National Park. They have furthermore approved this project in equally open and flagrant opposition to a number of procedural requirements, particularly those of prior consultation with the public. These requirements derive not only from the Albanian Constitution and laws, but also from the Aarhus Convention, ratified by Albania in the year 2000.
The inhabitants of the area and TOKA – supported by WWF and other national and international environmental and social justice organizations – have made countless administrative efforts with various state institutions to stop this unwanted project which promises serious and irreparable damage to both the natural environment as well as the community’s social wellbeing in the National Park of Valbona Valley. With the backing of WWF, they are now addressing the Albanian court with hope and confidence for a fair trial for them and for the Valley of Valbona, for the present and the future of this National Park, which ultimately belongs to all Albanian citizens.
Catherine Bohne Selimaj, president of TOKA said “We have been living for the past six months with the noise all day, and now night too, of destruction as bulldozers and dynamite rip into what is not only one of the highest biodiversity areas of South Eastern Europe, but our home. The only silence is from Tirana. We cannot wait any longer to stop the destruction that threatens both our natural heritage and our economic future.”