'Save Shushica': The protest against the Himara new water supply project is growing

'Save Shushica': The protest against the Himara new water supply

With Albanian flags in their hands and chanting: "Save our Shushica", hundreds of protesters gathered on Saturday at the Lasko bridge near the village of Kuç, revolted by the plans of the government and the municipality of Himarë for the diversion of river water with pipes, in order to channelize towards the tourist area of ​​Himara.

Residents of 30 villages along the valley, as well as 12 elders of these villages, found support among activists and environmental experts in the protest against the Himara water supply project, which, according to them, risks damaging the ecosystem.

"We had high hopes for the National Park and we expected it to promote economic development," said Elidon Kamaj, the village headman of Brataj.

"However, if our water is now withdrawn and Shushica loses its National Park status, our economic future will be at risk," he warned.

The Shushica River is one of the main tributaries of the Vjosa River, the latter declared a National Park in March 2023. A year after the decision that was trumpeted by the government, Shushica faces the possibility of being removed from its protected status.

According to environmental experts, the Himara aqueduct project, funded by the German Development Bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), plans to divert 140 liters of water per second from the river and risks dry its upper part completely during the summer.

Environmental activists point out that, if this project is not withdrawn, it could set a precedent for other acts of destruction for nature.

"The actions that are taking place today in Shušicë may be repeated tomorrow in other parts of the National Park," said Olsi Nika, Executive Director of Eco Albania.

"The credibility of the entire Wild River National Park is at risk," he added.

Even Ulrich Eichelmann, executive director of the international organization "Riverwatch", called for the banning of this project.

"This diversion project endangers the entire National Park," Eichelmann pointed out.

"Germany and WBIF should withdraw from the project if Albania does not immediately stop the construction works and order a real 'Environmental Impact Assessment'," he added.

Foreign scientists who have been studying the ecosystem of Vjosa for years point out that the Environmental Impact Assessment report, which also served to issue the project permit, is not based on scientific evidence and is misleading.

For these reasons, the inhabitants of the villages, the elders, and the activists of the cause for the protection of Shushica demanded in Saturday's protest the immediate stop of the construction, the performance of a new Environmental Impact Assessment, as well as the identification of some alternative water sources for coastal area of ​​Himara.

On the other hand, the residents of the 30 villages that are affected by this project are outraged by the lack of transparency regarding the project's implementation plans.

"We will not sit idly by while our water is stolen," said Astrit Balilaj, the headman of Kuç village, during his speech at the protest, while adding that "this project was never communicated to us" and "its existence only came to light when construction machinery appeared.”

"We will not tolerate our water being taken away and we are prepared to take action to stop the construction," Balili concluded. Reporter.al

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