A Call for the Establishment of Vjosa National Park: Environmental Organizations Unite - Into Albania

A Call for the Establishment of Vjosa National Park: Environmental Organizations Unite

For many years, the preservation of Vjosa, specifically the protections of its nature and biodiversity, has represented an important cause, nationally and internationally.

Vjosa has been on the forefront of environmental talks, having found a space in both international news sources and on the social platforms of famous advocates for the protection of environment, like Leonardo di Caprio.

International attention has not been sparse, something which has helped encourage and support a strong and durable local movement to protect Europe’s last wild river or jewel. Presently, 20 Albanian environmental organizations led by EcoAlbania, urged by a lack of governmental activity, submitted a proposal for the establishment of the Vjosa National Park to the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mr. Blendi Klosi. International organizations like Riverwatch, EuroNatur, WWF Adria, Westland International Europe, International Rivers and The Nature Conservancy have expressed their support of the cause.

Vjosa River. Photo by GuideVenturous.

Euronatur, for instance, has published an article about the request to turn this area into a National Park. In the article, Euronatur states that the national park should include the Vjosa River within Albanian territory, as well as the untouched branches of Bënça and Shushica. In total, the proposed Vjosa National Park will cover about 45,000 hectares and protect approximately 300 kilometers of flowing water. This development would be the first of its kind in Europe, with Vjosa becoming the first Wild River National Park in Europe.

“This river deserves the highest protection category and no dams! Anything less than a national park would be inappropriate for the Vjosa. This last big wild river in Europe is of international importance.” – Annette Spangenberg, head of projects at EuroNatur.

Vjosa section in Tepelena. Photo by Alvaro Galvez.

Indeed, Vjosa has a rich ecosystem with 1,175 species of animals and plants, including 119 protected species and 39 species listed in the IUCN International Red List of Threatened Species. However, it is thought that the number of rare species may be much higher, as many areas of Vjosa and its tributaries remain unexplored.

The valley of the Vjosa River. Photo by GuideVenturous.

A National Park is the most appropriate protection category for Vjosa, not only because it represents the best way of protecting this unique ecosystem, but also because it aims to develop ecotourism as a form of tourism that is environmentally friendly, thus raising awareness and knowledge of environmental education. If the proposal is approved by the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, it will take two years to plan the national park. In other words, if these protection procedures are reviewed in a timely manner, the park would be ready as early as 2023.

Raftin in Vjosa. Photo by Castle Restaurant.

For information on rafting and kayaking on the Vjosa River, click here.