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++ Himara Water Supply Project threatens the newly declared Vjosa Wild River National Park ++
December 16, 2023, Kuç, Selenicë. Local residents from the villages of the Shushica Valley, part of the Vjosa River National Park, along with activists, held another protest against the project to divert water from the Lëpusha source for the construction of the Himara water supply system. After more than 5 months of efforts, residents from the Vlora River area remain committed in defending the National Park and stopping the construction of the Shushica river diversion project.
"The project to build the water supply system in Himara Municipality is a direct and irreversible intervention in the newly declared Vjosa Wild River National Park, categorized as a protected area under category II since March 2023. The diversion of 104 l/s, with an estimated average annual water flow of 139 l/s, is expected to leave the riverbed dry during the summer. Given that the Shushica River mainly flows through a karst geological formation, where the water bottom is typically underground, any water diversion will have a significant impact on the long-term connectivity of the river ecosystem," said Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania.
"With the water diversion, the economy of 30 villages, relying on agriculture and livestock, will be paralyzed. The only option is the abandonment of the area by its inhabitants," expressed the former village chief of Kuç, Asllan Lala.
Residents claim that the 30 affected villages have never been consulted about this project, even though they will be directly affected by the water diversion. They have been mobilized since August, when they first encountered construction work on the ground. With the first protest, they managed to halt the works on the intake structure on the upper course of the Shushica near the village of Kuç, while a second protest took place in mid-August 2023 at the Lasko Bridge, where people temporarily blocked the main road. The December 16 protest is the fourth one, following the previous one at the Lepenicë bridge. Furthermore, they have signed petitions and letters addressed to the local institutions, but have received no response. Construction continues on the Himara side, near the Kudhesi River, for the opening of the new access road.
"As residents, we welcomed the declaration of the national park and expect to bring tourism development to the area, but taking water from the river at its source is a hypocrisy that we do not accept," said Sotir Zahoaliaj from the village of Brataj.
"This intervention is damaging the Vjosa Wild River National Park as a vision and is expected to have an irreversible negative impact on its nature conservation values, risking to become a precedent for other developments of this nature. The water intended to be exploited questions the lives and existence of about 12,500 residents, 5,000 livestock, 4,000 bees, and many other species of wild animals and plants," added Olsi Nika.
Find more information at the fact-sheet.