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VOA: Low rates of development in the northern districts of Albania, the poorest Kukësi and Dibra
The mountainous area in the north of Albania continues to have low rates of development compared to the rest of the country. Although with numerous resources in the field of energy, forests, minerals and touristic values, this area is considered as one of the poorest in Albania. Local communities do not manage to benefit almost anything from the exploitation of the natural resources found in the territory of their municipalities. Thus, in the municipality of Vau Dejës, which is included in the District of Shkodra, there are a number of hydropower plants that cover with electricity a large part of the territory of Albania, and yet, from the use of this water wealth, the community of this area benefits almost nothing .
"The municipality of Vau Dejës is an important point in the production of electricity, because we have not only two hydropower plants, but we have Koman, Vau e Dejës, we have Ashta 1 and Ashta 2. Also two small hydropower plants that are being built in the area of Vig -Mnela. To tell you the truth, the income from the hydropower plants is small, if you say they have absolutely no effect on the economy of the municipality of Vau Deja", says the mayor of this municipality, Mark Babani.
According to the Institute of Statistics, Kukës and Dibër Districts have the highest poverty rates in Albania. Due to this situation, 18 thousand 88 poor families are supported with economic aid. Meanwhile, Dibër and Kukës Districts continue to have a high level of internal migration. Only in 2021, 5487 people left both of these counties. The Kukës district, which includes the municipalities of Kukës, Has and Tropoja, is one of the richest areas with minerals and water resources, which are used by private companies, but the local communities continue not to benefit from them.
"Kukës municipality alone has some 34 mining companies, which receive significant income through the investment they made in mines, as well as 18 hydropower plants built along the rivers and watercourses in the Kukës district. But, unfortunately, Kukësi continues to remain the poorest district and district in Albania because the companies that have invested have simply exploited the nature, the resources, but nothing has returned in return for the community", says Rifat Demalija, the head of the Center for Youth Progress in Kukës.
In most cases, private companies use the natural resources of this area indiscriminately and out of control, damaging the road infrastructure and the natural environment, with consequences for the livelihood of local communities. There are occasional protests by residents of the villages of Mirdita, Dibra and Tropoja for taking water sources from the construction of HPPs, or protests by residents of Postriba, in Shkodër, for the pollution of drinking water sources from quarries. According to Mr. Demalija, most of the companies do not fulfill the legal obligation to return the environment to its original state.
“Kompanitë duhet të derdhin një taksë në qeverisjen vendore, që është diku tek 400 mijë lekë për megavat, apo 500 mijë lekë për shfrytëzim minerali për km2 të cilat, sigurisht, mund të mblidhen nga qeverisja vendore. Por, në fakt, këto nuk shkojnë tek banorët e zonave ku kompanitë shfrytëzojnë burimet natyrore. Këtë e them me bindje sepse shikojmë zona të pazhvilluara, me rrugë të degraduara, me shkolla në gjendje të mjerueshme, pa qendra shëndetësore, mungesë ujësjellësash”, thotë ai.
Ndërkohë, sipas kryetarit të bashkisë Vau Dejës, Mark Babani, në vend që të shtohen detyrimet ligjore të kompanive për të kontribuar nga fitimet e tyre në ekonominë e komuniteteve lokale, këto detyrime po zvogëlohen gjithnjë e më shumë.
"With a government decision, taxes on the construction and land of hydropower plants have been removed. It is no longer received by the municipality, so the municipality has no benefits from the hydropower plants", he says.
The economic progress of the northern regions of Albania proves the indiscriminate use of natural resources, the use of which does not bring income to the city or local communities. This is also one of the reasons why the northern area of Albania continues to have the lowest rates of development and the highest indicators of the departure of residents, mainly young people. According to the "Regional Statistical Yearbook-2022", published by INSTAT, the 4 northern districts, Shkodra, Lezha, Kukësi and Dibra, register 10,839 displaced people out of 42,500 displaced nationally./ VOA