In the villages of Gramsh and Librazhdi, the indiscriminate construction of HPPs has brought serious consequences for communities and the environment, while the battle for water continues.
On August 25, residents of the village of Grabovë e Sipërme in Gramsh gathered for the tenth time in protest against the construction of two hydropower plants, which they say will dry up their water and damage the mountain tourism that is flourishing in the area.
Residents held the protest in the Grabova neck, where the construction company is opening the pipeline channel that is expected to collect the water.
“We went to the neck of Grabova to protest again. Next time we will take the women, the old children and we will still be here, and we will not let them take the water from us,” says Todi Buzo, one of the residents in the protest.
Xorxho Paço, another resident of the area, says that no one has asked them about the construction of the hydropower plant and calls for the verification of the firms.
“We are not dead as a village, so we call on the state to verify who has given the signatures to build a hydropower plant, since we as a village have not given signatures,” he claims.
The concessions for the construction of Grabova 1 and Grabova 2 hydropower plants were approved in 2017 in favor of the merger of the companies “Vëllezërit Hysa” and “Hidropower” sh.pk. They will be added to dozens of other hydropower plants built in the municipalities of Librazhd and Gramsh during last years.
The environmental expert, Kristi Bashmili, told BIRN that the HPPs in the areas of Librazhd and Gramsh have damaged the environmental habitat and worsened the lives and economy of the residents.
“HECs have not spared important habitats in protected areas, especially in the Shebenik National Park, or other important natural areas, and have worsened the economy and livelihood of local residents, mainly in Rrapun, Dragostunje, the villages along the Gostima river, in Polis as well as in the territory of Gramsci,” said Bashmili.
Residents of the areas affected by the HPPs told BIRN in separate interviews that the lack of irrigation water has added to their old problems – prompting many of the residents to leave the country.
In the village of Dardhë in Librazhdi, the opposition to HPPs is an old struggle. Left with no solution, more than 20 families left the village during the last year alone.
Bedri Rrenga told BIRN that their life has become difficult since the time when water no longer flows through the canals.
“We have an old war with HEC, but we are not to blame for them, but the state. No one remembers us to help us stay, because if there is no water, if there is no road and infrastructure, the only solution is to leave,” says Rrenga, who continues to resist without leaving his hometown.
In Gostime of Elbasan, hundreds of residents feel threatened by the lack of water in the future, while a HPP is being built near the village of Fushë-Buall.
“The construction of the HPP near the village of Fushë Buall directly affects 250-300 families, who use the river water to irrigate over 300 ha of agricultural land. Thus, the inhabitants of the villages along this river course will forever lose the ancient tradition of the river beach and fishing,” said Kristi Bashmili.
The environmental expert emphasizes that the consequences can be seen in different areas of Librazhd. “Such negative impacts are clearly visible in the lower part of the Rrapun River. The water-loving vegetation of the marshland as well as the riparian areas have already shrunk significantly, as a result of the lack of water,” he added.
In Dragostunje of Librazhdi, residents have found a middle solution with the owner of the HPP, which allows a certain amount of water for irrigation during the hot season. But the residents complain that the young people have fled and the lands are left barren.
“Whoever found the opportunity ran away from here. We who are left are squirming. We are mainly old people who are keeping the land with our nails in order to develop a little agriculture and animal husbandry. Youth is gone,” says an old man.
Expert Kristi Bashmili says that the indiscriminate granting of licenses for HEC has already had negative effects on agriculture and tourism development.
“The degradation of natural resources and biodiversity brings an irreversible negative impact on the economic development aspects of local communities, which closely link their activities with these resources,” Bashmili emphasized.
“The impossibility of developing traditional agriculture and the reduction of the tourist potential of these areas remain very serious impacts, which in many cases have not been taken into consideration by policy-making and governing institutions,” he added.
Other damages listed by the expert are the destruction of the natural landscape and the increase in erosion on the coasts and surfaces where there is no vegetation.
“In some of the rivers and streams where HPPs have diverted water, they have permanently disrupted the balance of the ecosystem, destroying it,” he added.
In the village of Grabovë e Sipërme in Gramsci, residents say they will not stop until the hydropower plant’s permit is cancelled.
“We will be here with all the families and we will not leave the water,” says Sokrat Paço, another protester. “We will continue to resist,” he concluded./BIRN
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