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Valbona National Park
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Valbona – One Of Europes Last Edens Is Being Destroyed But You Can Help Stop It

[social_warfare]

Taking its name from the cold turquoise river and the small village which sits on the banks of the river, the Valbona Valley National Park (Albanian: Parku Kombëtar i Luginës së Valbonës) forms part of the Albanian Alps (Alpet Shiqptare) also known as Accursed Mountains (Bjeshket e Namuna, or Nemuna; Проклетије / Prokletije) is one of the last wild mountain ranges in Europe.

Tucked between the border mountains of Kosovo and Montenegro, its isolation alone creates the feeling that this is a place far removed from time. But, like many such sacred and treasured natural habits that may all soon disappear.

With the past of communism and capitalism behind, the beaches on the southern coast are a popular draw for people seeking the beauty of a Greek island and the low prices of Eastern Europe. The mountains remain relatively untouched with the north only selectively tempting those adventurous hikers who are willing to make the journey.

The park’s remoteness and the relatively small human population, which has been able to preserve their folklore and customs, combined with a uniquely rich ecosystem allow this area a unique opportunity to offer the world something especially valuable.

Earlier in 2017, National Geographic even rated Valbona National Park as one of the “Nine Best Places in the World to Enjoy the Outdoors.”

But the future of this area and its potential for a vibrant tourism culture which would both protect and assist its people and the natural environment on which they rely is being seriously challenged by the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Valbona River.

This includes an initial 14 hydropower plants including 8 that would be entirely inside Valbona National Park. This project as wholly threatens to disrupt a very delicate balance which has been preserved for millennia.

This is despite the fact that Valbona National Park officially became a protected area in 1996, and such activities are blatantly illegal. And the government? It has all but backed down from revoking licenses citing expensive legal recourses which it can’t afford to pay to developers.

So it is in the hands of the people. It is up to the local community’s approximately 852 inhabitants to save an entire ecosystem. If there was ever a comparative, it would be that of David and Goliath.

But despite this gargantuan undertaking the likes of Catherine Bohne, her organisation TOKA (The Organization to Conserve the Albanian Alps), Albanian Activist Rea Nepravishta and other grassroots groups refuse to give up. They are doing their best to stop this barefaced disregard for the local community and the natural environment which will suffer irreparable damage if this project goes ahead.

Various awareness campaigns like “Don’t touch my Valbona (Mos ma prek Valbonen)” have been organised to bring awareness and pressurise authorities to stop the construction of the dams; which are well underway along a section of Valbona River.

The truth is Valbona National Park is Albania’s best source of sustainable tourism revenue. But with the Dragobia’s hydropower development moving forward without public consultation – despite being vigorously fought by multiple grassroots Albanian groups – there has been no stopping the giants of corporation.

It is without saying that we as a global people need to stand together to protect what we can of our natural environment. Indigenous cultures are too as sacred and need to be preserved. Social media can be a powerful thing. So, please take a second to share this article. If you are a traveller, nature lover, hiker, climber, kayaker, boater or skier, or know someone who is, please share this article. If for any other reason than to say you helped keep one of Europe’s last great centres of biodiversity safe.

 

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