by N. Peter Kramer
Several NGO’s released a series of photos capturing the words Vjosa National Park Now cloaking the foreground of famous monuments in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Tirana. The Vjosa, Europe’s largest wild river outside of Russia, faces its greatest danger, due to political uncertainty.
The activists behind the visual action are targeting the attention of European and Albanian politicians, urging them to declare the river Vjosa in Albania Europe’s first Wild River National Park, thus protecting it forever. The historical designation is of international significance as it would safeguard 300km of rivers and streams, host to over 1.100 species, many of which are considered threatened.
The launch of the Vjosa National Park Now campaign follows the 2018 Blue Heart film and campaign which depicted the fight to protect the wild rivers of the Balkans, the ‘Blue Heart’ of Europe, from 3.400 proposed hydropower projects which would destroy the culture and ecology of tis entire region. Within the Blue Heart, the Vjosa is the largest and most untamed river system.
Ulrich Eichelmann, President of RiverWatch, says: ‘There are three major reasons why we need a Vjosa National Park. First off, a national park designation offers the best protection for the river and its biodiversity. Secondly, it would create a substantial income for locals from eco-tourism. And lastly, it would attract international funding to plan and operate the park’. It is a unique chance to place a high value on this biodiversity hotspot by preserving this intact river to benefit people, the climate and the planet.
With Albanian national elections on 25 April 2021, nature conservation groups such as EcoAlbania, RiverWatch and EuroNatur are calling on the public and on political leaders to enshrine the future of the Vjosa and make this wild river national park a major priority. A recent poll shows that 94% of the Albanian people are in favour of establishing the Vjosa National Park. For more information: www.balkanrivers.net and www.ecoalbania.org