River Vjosa, Albania

River Vjosa, Albania

Despite local and international opposition, the Albanian government has approved plans for a dam on the Vjosa river, considered one of Europe’s last wild waterways.

“This river will bury the living and the dead,” sighed Enver Vasilaj, 93, standing by the Vjosa, one of Europe’s last wild waterways, which runs uninterrupted from its source in northwest Greece to the Adriatic Sea.

Vasilaj is among many residents of the remote Albanian village of Kut who are worried about the impact on their lives and livelihoods of a planned hydroelectric dam at Pocem, a few kilometres (miles) downstream.

Despite election campaign pledges to preserve the Vjosa and create a national park around the river, Albania’s government in May defied local and international opposition and granted initial approval to a proposal by two Turkish firms to build a 25-metre (80-foot),99.5 megawatt dam at Pocem.

Residents of Kut, 170 kilometres (100 miles) south of Tirana, fear the lake created by the 100 million euro ($110 million) dam will engulf their fields and olive groves—even the cemetery—leaving only their houses above the water line.

“Here we have a curse: ‘Let your tomb be flooded’,” said Dilaver Murataj, who is in charge of Kut’s land registry.

“It is a serious curse,” he added, explaining that land was so cherished here that even when people emigrated they did not sell up.

According to Olsi Nika of the environmental association EcoAlbania about 178 concession agreements have been signed for the construction of about 502 new hydropower plants.

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