Vlora airport project, Reuters: Threatens shelter for 200 species of birds

Vlora airport project, Reuters: Threatens shelter for 200 species of birds

Environmentalists protested over the weekend at the construction site of a new airport in Vlora, which, according to the government, aims to boost tourism. They said it will endanger shelters for about 200 species of birds, including flamingos and pelicans, writes Reuters .

The picturesque Vjosë-Narte lagoon near the Adriatic coast is a stopover for flocks of birds on their annual migration between Europe and Africa.

The government is building the airport just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Adriatic coast with pristine sandy beaches, which the impoverished Balkan nation hopes will attract more foreign tourists.

"For those who think this airport will bring development, in reality this airport will only bring destruction," tour guide Alben Kola told Reuters as he and more than 100 environmentalists and ornithologists held their protest.

The European Union, which Albania intends to join, has said that the airport project, which began in December 2021 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, has been undertaken in violation of national and international laws for the protection of biodiversity.

The Committee of the Berne Convention that works for the protection of European wild animals and natural habitats has said that Albania should suspend the construction of the airport.

"This shows that this wealth of nature does not belong only to us, but to all of Europe and foreign governments are doing more to protect it than us ," said Joni Vorpsi, from the NGO Protection and Conservation of the Natural Environment in Albania ( PPNEA). 

In November, an Albanian court dismissed a lawsuit filed by local NGOs against the construction of the airport, but they plan to appeal.

Vorpsi said the airport, which would serve the southern coastal city of Vlora, would not only destroy bird habitats but increase the risk of aircraft collisions with the large birds.

The Swiss firm leading the project, Mabetex, has said the runways there will not affect bird routes. He said the track will be 3.5 kilometers from the bird sanctuary and 5 km away from the main bird migration routes.

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