‘It is one of the most beautiful corners of the world that I’ve had the privilege of seeing, breathing, and tasting.’ This is how Larissa Olenicoff, a Russian blogger describes Valbona Valley, after being there. She has been traveling her entire life and that’s what she wrote this week in her blog:

'Whatever journey you choose to have for yourself there – active, lazy, romantic, reflective, all of the above – you will not be disappointed. The fresh air up there is priceless and the famously delicious trout they pull from the Valbona River by no means overhyped. There are about 200 km of hiking trails you can explore around the national park or for those who are looking to be a little less active, even just driving through to the end of the road will blow your mind.

But Larissa happened to hear a bad news that she describe like this:

‘Now here comes the bad news. This special place which has remained more pristine than many other nature spots in the region due to it being isolated far longer thanks to shitty roads is in serious danger. While I’m thankful for the new road from Bajram Curri for making it easier for me/tourists to visit and stimulate the economy, it’s also bringing in a lot of riffraff. Mainly corporate riffraff who care less about enjoying the nature and more about exploiting it. You can’t help but notice almost immediately after approaching the entrance to the park some massive machinery digging for something you know they can sell for a high price and unfortunately it’s about to get worse.’

Valbona Valley enjoys the National Park status since 1996 and is expected to become the most important tourism asset of the country, part of a giant park that will join the Alps with Kosovo and Montenegro. However there are 11 hydro power plants planned to be built along the river. Dragobia HPP is one of the largest projects.

The construction company claims to have received the approval of residents in the area who have put their signatures in a list. However, residents claim that the list is a fraud because it holds the name of some people who died years ago. 10 other hydro-power plants will be built along the rivers and streams of Valbona.

Valbona Valley

'Valbona is not our property. We are its servants. We have shed blood protecting it when we had no state, otherwise it would be in the hands of Serbia today. The river is the marrow of Valbona valley. The construction of HPPs here seems wrong.

Profits are on an individual base and do not favour the area. They should show some dignity and review their decisions. It's shameful" one of the residents told local media.

Tourists as well oppose plans for construction of all hydro power plants in Valbona. Those tourists have been marvelled by Valbona's beauty, hence becoming its residents.

A UK based tour operator sent earlier this month a request to Prime Minster Rama, to stop Valbona Hydropower Development.

‘We focus on Montenegro and the wider Western Balkans region and have been working with tourism partners in northern Albania for the past several years. Our clients who have visited Albania and met with local hosts have been delighted with their experiences and cite the spectacular natural environment and authentic culture as unique. Indeed the Peaks of the Balkans trail which passes through the remote Theth and Valbona regions has gained international recognition as one of the top, new hiking destinations worldwide.

We have recently heard about plans to develop a hydropower project in Valbona. Having looked into the matter we are extremely concerned about this proposal. There are very few ‘unspoilt’ truly wild and natural regions left in Europe. Valbona is one of those few. The potential consequences of a hydropower development would be devastating for the environment, for local communities and their cultual heritage and for the tourism industry in the region.

In today’s world, value is increasingly placed on those areas which have not been overdeveloped and which preserve their cultural and natural heritage.

We respectfully urge you to reconsider this proposal, to preserve the authentic culture and unspoilt environment for your country’s future’, formally states the British Tour Operator.

The communities of Valbona Valley, Cerem and Gashi are promoting an extensive campaign. They also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, asking him to lead the fight to eliminate Hydropower development in Albania's protected areas.

That’s what they say:

‘The Construction of just one of these projects ("Dragobia Cascades") will destroy the entire eastern slope of Kollata Mountain to construct a 3m wide delivery tunnel. Kollata incidentally includes the highest peak in Montenegro, one of the most popular weekend destinations for hikers. It will destroy Cerem Valley, rerouting the whole river. And it will destroy the southern face of Gjarper Mountain, as well as people's farms, fields and homes. It will be the end of eco-tourism here, which is entirely based on offering pristine nature. Cerem Path is also part of the internationally recognized "Peaks of the Balkans" trail, which brings hundreds of tourists annually to the area. That's the end of that.’ /AgroWeb.org/