The Albanian government has drafted a proposal to expand protected areas in the north of the country, thereby creating a larger national park. This is what emerges from a draft ministerial decision made available on the national electronic register of public opinions and consultations.
It will combine the individually protected areas of Gashi, Theth and Valbona into a new park, the Albanian Alps National Park. The zone will cover some 82,844.65 hectares, instead of the cumulative 13,630 hectares covered by the three previous zones.
The National Park will then be subdivided into three protective and administrative categories. They are as follows:
- Central sub-zone A: 1,698.1 hectares which will benefit from the highest level of protection due to its high natural values ââand its biodiversity. Research and controlled tourism will be permitted, but tree cutting, grazing, construction of any kind or extraction of minerals are strictly prohibited.
- Core Subzone B: 54,180.07 hectares will have the same restrictions as Core Subzone 1, but will also include a ban on any intensive project that could alter its ecostructure or introduce non-native species. He specifically mentioned that the construction of streets, urban areas or hydroelectric power stations is not allowed.
- Area C: 26,969.48 hectares usable for sustainable development. This includes traditional agricultural practices, but any development that could alter the ecosystem is prohibited. Development and construction can be carried out there but only with the approval of the government while taking care not to damage the natural ecosystem.
While this is good news for the future protection of the region, it will do nothing to stop already planned projects.
Article 5 stipulates that any activity which exploits natural resources and which was authorized to do so before the entry into force of the decision may continue to operate, as long as it complies with Law 81 on âprotected areasâ. “. No other will be granted a permit after the decision takes effect.
While under Law 81 on Protected Areas, the construction of hydropower plants is prohibited in the central subzones, hydropower plants continue to be built in Gashi and along the Gashi River, causing widespread disruption. of the environment.
Construction of hydroelectric power stations along the Valbona River was halted by court order, but work had already advanced considerably.