The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted the joint request of 27 residents of Valbona, the Association "TOKA" and the Association for Preservation and Protection of the Albanian Alps to suspend the contract for the construction of 2 HPPs in Valbona by the company "Gener 2" and "Dragobia Energy LLC", as a measure to secure the lawsuit until a final decision is made regarding the case.
With today's decision, the High Court decided to change the decision no. 17, dated 11.03.2021 of the Administrative Court of Appeal and the decision no. 3342, dated 02.06.2017, of the Administrative Court of First Instance, Tirana in this way: “ Acceptance of the request of the plaintiff for taking the measure of securing the lawsuit for the suspension of the concession contract and its additions and the permits mentioned in points 3-6 of the object of the lawsuit, until the final settlement of the case with a final decision ” .
Today's decision of the Supreme Court comes after a battle of more than 5 years of the residents of Valbona and their association "Land" represented by Chatherin Bohne, an American married in Valbona. Residents and environmental activists have been actively protesting in recent years against the construction of hydropower plants in Valbona, arguing that they undermine the unique values ??of the valley ecosystem and the tourism potential of the area, one of the most frequented in recent years in Albania for mountain tourism.
Permits for the construction of hydropower plants in this part of the Albanian Alps were issued by the Berisha government, but they were not canceled by the Rama government. In this area are given 14 concessions for the construction of HPPs, where 8 of them are foreseen within the National Park.
Work on the construction of two of the hydropower plants in Valbona started in 2016 and, since then, the works have advanced.
In 2017, the residents of Valbona asked the court to annul the government decision for the construction of hydropower plants in the Valbona Valley, but their request was not accepted by the Administrative Court, which decided on the construction of hydropower plants. While in February of this year, the Court of Tropoja decided to dismiss the lawsuit for the construction of HPPs on the river Valbona, a decision that was considered by residents and their association "Land" as unfair and contrary to law. Residents warned of the continuation of their legal battle over the non-construction of hydrocarbons in Valbona by sending the case to the International Court of Justice in Strasbourg.
The representative of the residents of Valbona and the association "Toka", Chatherin Bohne, said that this lawsuit, which is the third administrative lawsuit, is due to the fact that in June 2017 the law on protected areas was changed and it is very clearly written that hydropower plants are not allowed within a protected area such as Valbona. Second, if it is a company under construction, the work should be stopped and the National Agency for Protected Areas (NAPA) has the responsibility to inform and remove this company. The NEA must act within 30 days, but it has not done so, so we have sued the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and the NEA, who must do their job. ”
Although today's decision of the Supreme Court comes at a time when the works for the construction of hydropower plants in the Valbona Valley have advanced, it is considered by residents and their association "Land" as a positive step for the establishment of justice and protection of the environment.
Valbona Valley has been declared a protected area of ??category 2, National Park. The "Dragobia" project has been implemented there for 5 years, which envisages the construction of two hydropower plants, but also secondary roads, power lines, tunnels and is being developed in the middle of Valbona National Park, a park with a total area of ??600 hectares and with a population of about 1000 inhabitants.