Kamza, 23 January 2020. Residents from the village of Zall-Gjoçaj (Mat) and representatives of EcoAlbania have gathered in Kamza to discuss the issue of hydropower plants in the Mat area and how to oppose these projects. Through their experience with the campaign for the protection of the Vjosa Valley, EcoAlbania aims to support the communities that are affected by hydropower projects, by informing and motivating the residents to continue the battle for the protection of Zall-Gjoçaj National Park.
Currently, the residents of the four villages in Mat are continuing their resistance in protecting the Zall-Gjoçaj river on which two HPPs are being built. They have set up a tent in the area where water is planned to be taken, in order to block the continuation of the construction works inside the Zall-Gjoçaj National Park. Despite the continuous protests of these residents, there is still no reaction from the responsible ministries, neither the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy nor the Ministry of Tourism and Environment.
This meeting was attended by residents affected by the construction of the HPPs and which are concerned about the ongoing situation in their village. They presented a range of problems such as threats from the construction company, dealing with the police and a lack of information by public administration representatives. Residents also raised concerns about a lack of funds for transportation to the village of Zall-Gjoçaj due to economic disadvantages. They told that people from the construction company have burned their tent of resistance and destroyed their banner. They point out that with the construction of the hydropower plant there will be no more drinking water for them and asked for the presence of Albanian and foreign media to report on the current situation in the area. “We will provide support during your resistance as well as new tents and banners” promised Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania, to the affected residents. The issue of HPP construction in Zall-Gjoçaj is currently in court and EcoAlbania will join the process as a plaintiff along with the residents.
This meeting was held in the framework of the project “Give voice to the River Protection“, which aims to share the experience of the campaign for the protection of the Vjosa, to motivate and mobilize the communities in the protection of the rivers. This was the first meeting with the communities affected by hydropower development in the country and will be followed by nine other meetings in other affected areas. The “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign has contributed to the creation and expansion of scientific data on the Balkan rivers, especially Vjosa, and the mobilization of public opinion against HPPs.
The Zall-Gjoçaj National Park is distinguished for its biodiversity of international value and is classified as an important plant area under criterion B, aimed at conserving areas of high botanical richness. It is also considered an important area for the biodiversity of plants and organisms that inhabit it. Beside its scientific value, the park also offers great landscapes that are enjoyed by both domestic and foreign visitors. Natural and biological assets and the beauty of the landscape offer great potential for the development of ecotourism, mountain tourism, adventure tourism, etc.