Albania’s ‘Wild River’ Vjosa Declared a National Park

Albania's Tourism and Environment Minister Mirela Kumbaro announced on Monday that the River Vjosa, its banks and the land around it are now a national park with a size of 12,727 hectares.

"We have today the final decision to declare the River Vjosa, the last wild river in Europe, a national park," Kumbaro said.

Environmentalist and scientists have been lobbying and protesting for years against hydropower plants that the government planned to build on the river.

"After ten years of fighting, finally the decision to declare a Vjosa Wild River National Park has been taken, including [the river's] branches, the Benca, Shushica and Drino," Eco Albania, an environmental organisation based in Tirana that has been trying to protect the river for years, said in a statement.

Declaring the river a national park was seen by environmentalists and international scientists as the only way of finally protecting the river and its tributaries from possible infrastructure projects.

In January last year, the river was designated a 'nature park' but environmentalists feared that this designation could not protect its tributaries from possible dam projects, and if the tributaries were damaged, the river would suffer the consequences too.

The Vjosa is about 272 kilometres long, some 80 kilometres of which run through Greece. The rest flows through Albania into the Adriatic.

Experts have described it as having exceptional natural value, ​​and 776 Albanian and international scientists signed a petition in 2020 asking the authorities to stop the construction of dams on it.

A ceremony to mark the decision to declare the river a national park is expected to be held on Wednesday.

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