The unique characteristics of Aoos/Vjosa, as well as the latest developments in the international effort to fully protect the river in Greece and Albania become the “topic of the day” in the news website Propago, with statements from MedINA, Pindos Perivallontiki and The Green Tank as part of the alliance “Saving Europe’s last free-flowing wild river – Vjosa/Aoos”.
The article first describes the state of Europe’s rivers today and the significant loss of their natural characteristics due to human intervention. The exception is the so-called “blue heart of Europe”, i.e. Balkan rivers which, despite threats, have managed to maintain their free flow to date. As the article points out, actions by civil society organizations, policy makers, journalists, universities, and local authorities, among others, have a major contribution to this direction, highlighting the benefits of free-flowing rivers for nature and local communities.
Aoos/Vjosa, the longest free-flowing river in Europe that crosses the Greek-Albanian border and flows into the Adriatic Sea, became the symbol of this campaign. With the exception of the large hydropower dam at its sources, it flows unimpeded for 270 km. In 2018 the Greek-Albanian alliance “Saving Europe’s last free-flowing wild river – Vjosa/Aoos” with partners EuroNatur (Germany), Riverwatch (Austria), IUCN ECARO, MedINA, Pindos Perivallontiki & The Green Tank from Greece and EcoAlbania from Albania set the goal to prevent the construction of new hydropower projects and ensure its full institutional protection.
The longread records the latest developments to this direction on both sides of the borders, especially the decision of the Albanian leadership to designate the main river and some of its free-flowing tributaries as National Park and the recent commitment of the Deputy Minister of Environment Giorgos Amyras to the journalist Machi Tratsa that the part of the Aoos on the Greek side that is currently unprotected will be designated a “protected natural formation”.
“With this announcement, the Greek state acknowledges that there is currently an institutional gap that needs to be filled. The intention to designate Aoos as a protected landscape is an important step that should protect the river from specific threats – especially hydropower projects. It will also give time to assess options for its further protection so that eventually the river in its entirety, from its sources, and along its tributaries, will be under a single strong protection regime”, said Ioli Christopoulou, Policy Director at The Green Tank.
The long read was published on December 17, 2022 and it is available at propago.gr (in Greek).