Lumi Valbona vs. Hidrocentralet

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  • Press Release

    Tropoja, 8 October 2021 We believe that the ongoing ‘deployment’ of hydropower on the Valbona River is not only an environmental issue, but is at base a key and crucial issue of Human Rights. Human Rights – Rule of Law – Access to Justice Access to justice is a central right according to EU law. … Continue readingPress Release


Librari

Reports:

“The Valbona River and its Communities: A Case Study on the Social Impact of Hydropower Activity on Local Communities”  Published by WWF Adria, Jordi Benning author.  2021

“Time to reach for the moon : The EU needs to step up action and lead the transformation to sustainability” Civil society SDG monitoring report published by SDG Watch Europe and Make Europe Sustainable for all.  On page 63, SDG #7 : Affordable and Clean Energy, the Valbona Valley situation is highlighted to show the failure to achieve this goal to date. 2020

“How do Small-Scale Hydropower Projects Impact the Mental Well-being of Communities in Tropoja, Albania?”  Maastrict University Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Master’s Thesis submitted by Tess Hartland.  2019

“Communities Under Pressure : Findings from Valbona, Albania”  American Bar Association Center for Human Rights commissioned report on systematic harassment of anti-HPP activists in Valbona.  2019

“Review of Environmental Impact Assessment Report for Hydropower Plants on the Dragobia Cascade in Tropoja District”  Integra Consulting.  WWF Adria commissioned evaluation based on international standard of data required to be included in an EIA to justify decision making based on said EIA.  2016

“Transparency Report for Public Institutions” Published by Mjaft! A study documenting the failure of public institutions to respond to requests for information, despite the 2014 law on the Right to Information.  2016 https://www.mjaft.org/sites/default/files/Transparency%20report.pdf

Documentaries:

“The Undamaged” One hour documentary by the Leeway Collective / Balkan Rivers Defense.   2020. Valbona starts at 26:00.  Turn on English subtitles.  https://vimeo.com/416950802

“The Balkans cradle Europe’s last wild rivers and supports abundant wildlife and healthy, intact ecosystems. These rivers are The Undamaged – clean, pristine, and undammed. With over 2,700 small and large hydro power plants planned or under construction in the Balkans, corruption and greed are destroying the last free-flowing rivers of Europe. Follow the Balkan Rivers Tour, a rowdy crew of whitewater kayakers, filmers, photographers and friends who decided to stand up for the rivers, travelling from Slovenia down to Albania for 36 days, kayaking 23 rivers in 6 countries to protest the dams and show the world the secret, wild rivers of the Balkans. The film honours everyday people and local activists who are fighting to defend rivers and aims to spread the word of the plight of these rivers, showing a new style of nature conservation that fun, energetic and effective.”  

“The Murder of Valbona” An investigation by Albanian television programme “Top Story” about illegal construction of hydropower in Valbona Valley National Park.  Aired 2018 [English subtitles].

EU Awards for Investigative Journalism, Albania 2019 : “Endrit Habilaj was awarded second prize for the TV documentary “The Destruction of Valbona”, which used footage and documents to show the deterioration of the heart of the “Albanian Alps”, exposing evidence that hydropower developers are building plants illegally and in contravention of court orders, so destroying the environment and tourism.https://youtu.be/tNlisPP7c7A

“Free Flow – Pro Rrymes”  Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Elton Baxhaku filmmaker.  2018.  The documentary ‘Free Flow’ follows Albania villagers, activists, scientists and artists as they try to draw attention to the threat posed to the environment and the local ecotourism industry by power plant projects.  Winner of the 2019 Fatos Baxhaku Prize for best documentary.

“The Business That Sucks Rivers Dry” The second episode of the Albanian investigative series “Fifth Element”, showing the impact of run-of-river hydropower plants on some of the major river branches in north Albania, as well as within Valbona Valley National Park. Aired 2017 [translated to English]. https://youtu.be/L0-xkERASZM

Essays & Articles:

“Swimming” by Catherine Bohne, published 2021 in Shota.al. https://shota.al/pandemic/swimming/

“Force of Nature: Catherine Bohne pushes her boundaries, and pushes for change” by Jack Butcher, published 2020 in Kosova 2.0 “The Hope Issue” (print edition).

“Of CNN, Hydropower, and Albania’s Valbona Valley” by Michael Schulson, published 2019 in UnDark. https://undark.org/2019/08/14/a2-cnn-valbona-valley-hydropower/

“Can Albanians Protest?” by Catherine Bohne, published 2017 in Peizazhe te Fjales.  https://peizazhe.com/2017/02/28/can-albanians-protest/

“Albanian Institutions Fail a Transparency Test” by Fatjona Mejdini, published 2016 in Balkan Insight. https://balkaninsight.com/2016/07/12/albanian-institutions-difficulties-in-doing-transparency-07-11-2016/

Projekte per te mbeshtetur

Positive Projects and Actions!

In 2022, TOKA will be actively supporting the creation of ‘community monitoring’ – a citizen science initiative which allows locals to scientifically document the health of the river.  Data collected can be used to contribute actively to ongoing and legally required monitoring by the Water Basin Management and the National Inspectorate, and halt damages created by irresponsible development.  One anticipated partner is the Earthwatch Freshwater Watch Programme (https://earthwatch.org.uk/get-involved/freshwater-watch).  

If you have any experience to share, want to get involved, or have something to contribute please do get in touch!  

More positive actions coming soon . . . . 

later:

Write to Gener2 and ask where their grievance mechanism is. [Link to a blog about the ABA CHR rpt & correspondence)]

Hydropower Details

There are 3 concession contracts for Valbona River:

#1 Was issued to Tplani, to “recontruct” the old hydropower plant from communism.  In fact the location has been moved, and extended without legal permission.  (1 HPP)

#2 Was issued to Gener2, and grants the right to build 4 hydropower plants on 4 different rivers: 

  • the Valbona River in Dragobi
  • the Cerem River
  • the Milloshit River
  • the Motina River

In 2016 the subsidiary company “Dragobia Energy ShPK” started construction of the first two plants. (+4 = 5 HPP)

#3 Was issued to the Valbona Project Company – a thinly disguised subsidiary of Gener2 – and gives permission for an additional 9 hydropower plants, 6 of which are outside of the national park and includes the damming the river in Bujan to create an artificial lake which would flood valuable agricultural land and registered archeological sites.  (+9 = 14 HPP total)

Një nga Zonat më të çmuara dhe më pak të mbrojtura të Evropës takon Zhvillimin e Hidroenergjisë të vogël

2014 – deri sot

Kjo është historia se si banorët ruralë të një lugine të largët thellë në Malet e Nemuna po luftojnë me disa nga biznesmenët më të fuqishëm në Shqipëri dhe Qeverinë kundër ndërtimit të të paktën 14 (por ndoshta më shumë) hidrocentraleve në lumin Valbona që nga ajo kohë. 2016

Kaskadat e Dragobisë: 2016 vs. 2021

Përkundër pretendimit të zhvilluesve se ata do të rivendosin plotësisht të gjithë biodiversitetin dhe nuk do të ndryshojnë rrjedhën e lumit, në këto foto para dhe pas mund të shihni efektin e HEC -it në rrjedhën e lumit. Në shtator 2021, lumi Cerem ishte 100% i thatë nën marrjen e hidrocentraleve dhe duket se ka qenë i tillë për ca kohë.

Nga Zhvilluesi, video promovuese e Gener2 2018, në të cilën ata pretendojnë se

“… Uji do te lejohet gjithmone te rrjedhe ne shtratin natyral edhe ajo do te sigurise nje mjedis i shendetshem e te pa prekur.”

“Water will be always left to flow in the natural riverbed and this will ensure a healthy and untouched environment.”

Qëllimet e Zhvillimit të Qëndrueshëm jo HEC -et

Vendasit kundërshtojnë zhvillimin e planifikuar, ndërtimin e vazhdueshëm dhe funksionimin e afërt të HEC -ve të vegjël të shumtë për një sërë arsyesh: Dëmi mjedisor, mungesa e transparencës, frika nga menaxhimi i dobët i përdorimit të ujit, mungesa e pjesëmarrjes në vendimmarrje, ndikimet negative në mundësitë e zhvillimit të qëndrueshëm ekonomik , mungesa e besimit në monitorimin e ndikimit të nevojshëm, ngacmimi i dokumentuar i kundërshtarëve të HEC -eve, zhvendosja e detyruar… dhe lista vazhdon.

(Disi çuditërisht) Kultura e lashtë malësore plotëson standardet e BE -së në Valbonë. Vendasit argumentojnë se zhvillimet e vazhdueshme të HEC -eve janë në kundërshtim të madh me kërkesat e acquis të BE -së, si dhe fluturimin përballë kulturës tradicionale dhe ligjit zakonor, i cili kërkon përfshirje 100% të komunitetit në vendimmarrjen në lidhje me shpërndarjen e burimeve të përbashkëta, një shpërndarje të drejtë dhe të barabartë të qasjes në burimet, dhe ruajtjen e burimeve natyrore për të ardhmen.

“Ne duhet t’i lëmë thesaret e natyrës ashtu siç i kemi gjetur për brezat që do të vijnë.”

Deri më sot beteja është zhvilluar kryesisht në mediat kombëtare dhe gjykatat gjyqësore të kombit (të korruptuara). Katër padi administrative, 2 veprime penale dhe një padi SLAPP(Padia Strategjike Kundër Pjesëmarrjes Publike)  kundër TOKA nga zhvilluesi kanë krijuar dhjetëra veprime gjyqësore të ndërlidhura dhe ndoshta qindra seanca dëgjimore. Dy urdhra pune të ndaluara të lëshuara nga gjykatat e nivelit të lartë janë aktualisht në fuqi, pavarësisht se ndërtimi dhe funksionimi vazhdojnë. Megjithë deklaratat e herëpashershme publike që shprehnin shqetësimin për atë që po ndodhte, nuk ka pasur asnjë veprim nga ana e asnjë qeverie për të adresuar situatën.

“Beteja ligjore rreth zhvillimit të HEC -eve në lumin Valbona

mund të përshkruhet vetëm pasi Gogol takon Kafkën”

Ajo që ndodh në Valbonë nuk është e rëndësishme vetëm për banorët vendas, turistët dhe biologët. Fatkeqësisht, projektet e HEC -eve në lumin Valbona janë përfaqësues të një tendence kombëtare, e cila sheh shumë HEC të vegjël të planifikuar për pothuajse çdo lumë në Shqipëri dhe në të vërtetë Ballkanin në tërësi. Këto zhvillime kundërshtohen pothuajse në mënyrë universale nga vendasit, shpesh pa aftësi ose burime për të luftuar në mënyrë efektive. Funksioni i suksesshëm i drejtësisë dhe sundimit të ligjit në lumin Valbona duhet të jetë një fener vendimtar për dhjetëra mijëra komunitete rurale në të gjithë gadishullin Ballkanik të cilët përballen me konfliktin e njëjtë. 

Ajo që ndodh në një lumë ndodh në të gjithë.

Kronologjia Ligjore

Administrative Court Suit #1  TOKA & 27 locals vs. MEI et al

TOKA and 27 inhabitants vs. Ministry of Energy and Industry, National Environmental Agency, Ministry of Environment, National Territorial Council, Drin-Bune Water Basin Management Council (“TOKA vs MEI”).  Filed May 2017.  

Suit claims the absolute invalidity of the Concession Contract for “Dragobia Cascades” hydropower project granted in July 2009, as well as the invalidity of all permissions given as a result of such contract (environmental, water use, development and construction permits) and requests an interim measure to stop all work pending final resolution of the case.

Request to declare the Plaintiffs Ineligible to Sue.  Filed by Gener2 May 2017.

Request of Gener2 denied.  June 2017.  APPEALED.

Interim stop work request of TOKA denied.  June 2017.  APPEALED.

Court of 3 judges denies TOKA’s suit, 2:1. After 14 hearings, court rules Aarhus does not apply in this case, stating that government makes decisions that are ipso facto in the public interest and therefore for citizens to object to any government decision is objecting to their own best interest and inherently illogical. November 2017.  APPEALED.


Request to Speed the process on the Injunction filed by TOKA.  May 2018.  No response.

Request to Speed the process on TOKA vs. MEI filed.  May 2018.  No response.


Appeal court of 3 judges denies TOKA’s Interim stop work request. 2:1.  March 2021.  During the appeal, Gener2 claimed that construction was now complete, and as proof of the community’s happiness with the HPP also submitted a letter requesting the company Gener2 to install internet in Valbona, and thanking the company for ‘all the good things’ they have done for the village.  The letter lists 54 names and id numbers and is signed and stamped by the village head.  On being shown the letter, several of those listed stated that the letter was falsified, that they had given their id numbers to the municipality of Tropoja to support internet installation, that had no idea that Gener2 or the hydropower were involved, and that they would not of accepted internet from Gener2.  Several names were those of plaintiffs in the suit of TOKA vs. MEI.  APPEALED.

High court of 3 judges approves TOKA’s Interim stop work request.  3:0.  July 2021

Mbeshtet betejen

Komuniteti i bashkuar

There are something like 700 small hydropower projects proposed on almost every river in Albania.  As far as we know, every single one is opposed by local communities.  The result?  There are potentially 700 separate campaigns to save rivers which – insanity! – actually end up competing against each other for media attention and support.  

At TOKA, we believe that saving “our” river – but letting the rest go to hell – is not a good policy or goal.  After all, the root of the problem on every river remains the same:  Government dysfunction and a failure to respect basic democratic rights.  If we fix that, then . . . all the rivers can be saved!  Right?

For this reason, in July 2021, we hosted a 3 day conference in Tropoja, bringing together community members from as many rivers as we could.  The group “Bashk per Lumejnt” was born (“Together for Rivers”), with the goal of uniting to form a stronger common cause.  

Here are some of the river communities involved.  If you have a home river and want to join, just contact us!  

  • Seta River (Dibra)
  • Curraj River (Tropoja)
  • Cemi River (Kelmend)
  • Zall Gjocaj (Mat)
  • Bicaj River (Kukes)
  • Gashi River (Tropoja)

What should we ask them to give for their profile?

  1. Photo of the river
  2. Photo of the community
  3. How many HPP?
  4. What is the company working there?
  5. Do you have a map of HPP locations?
  6. How long have you been fighting?
  7. Did you have any “wins”
  8. How many Protests have you done?
  9. What legal actions did you take?
  10. Who supports you?
  11. Do you have a website?  Facebook page? Instagram?
  12. Do you have your own organization?
  13. What is the best way to contact you?

Zall Gjocaj