Eight permits for construction of hydropower plants have been given at the Bence-Kurvelesh valley, three of which have already started.
The Municipality of Tepelena opposes the construction, claiming the permits were given in protected areas, such as the Nivica and Progonat canyons, damaging tourist, historic, monumental values and also the biodiversity of the region.
Top Channel visited the area and saw that Nivica is having its buildings restored, part of the “100 Villages Project”, which aims to turn these places into tourist attractions.
The 2400-year-old Nivica Castle and the home of Myfit Kacubaj are two of the main culture monuments. The other one is the wonderful view of the Nivica canyons, with waterfalls that reach 220 meters, among the highest in Europe.
The Municipality of Tepelena wants to save them from the central government, which is filling the waterfalls with concrete. The concessionary company that will build the Driza 1 hydropower plant has already sued the municipality.
The “Kendervica Energy” company won the trial in June 2017 but the municipality is not allowing them to work yet.
“We are absolutely not against investments, but we see it reasonable to give more priority to tourism since we have this beauty that was given to us by Mother Nature. There have been no hearing sessions with the locals here. The Arhaus convention has not been implemented. There is an order from the Prime Minister, in 2002, which includes these areas as natural monuments, including the Nivica canyons. We have nothing against the company, but this goes against the Prime Minister’s order of 2002. This is why we filed a complaint and we will take it to the Supreme Court and even to Strasbourg”, Mayor Termet Peci said.
The situation gets more complicated as the ministries of environment, tourism, energy and culture have all approved the construction of the hydropower plants, claiming that they do not damage the natural values of the region and that the areas are not listed as protected.
“Drini 2000” is a company that has already worked for two hydropower plants, destroying tourism around them.
“Tourists cannot come and see concrete pipes. The entire Bence valley and the Kurvelesh highlands should be declared a protected park. We have made a study about this. The hydropower plant will benefit five persons, but not for the entire area”, Peci said.
The Nivica Canyons are the line that divides two policies that contradict each other. In the area just before the canyons, the “Rural Revival” is in effect, which is trying to turn the village into a tourist attraction. From there, tourists will see only concrete tubes of the hydropower plants.
Mayor Termet Peci has sided with nature so far, but his decisions will certainly be challenged by businessmen and courts, who, in cooperation with the government, have sided with concrete constructions.