28.05.2021 – 19:34
The Administrative Court of Tirana on Friday rejected a lawsuit by AYEN-ALB JSC against the Ministry of Environment, which sought the repeal of the negative environmental statement that completely rejects the concession for the construction of the Kalivaç hydropower plant.
The company Ayen-Alb, a merger of the Turkish company Ayen with 92 percent of the shares and the Albanian one Fusha, received approval from the government in 2017 to build the Kalivaç HPP with a concession. Earlier, a concession granted in the late 90’s for the same HPP for the company run by Francesco Bechetti failed and the Albanian state and the Italian businessman have been in litigation and arbitration for years.
But while the first concession left on paper passed unopposed, the announcement of the second concession at a time when hundreds of scientists from around the world and dozens of environmental organizations sought to protect the Vjosa, as a river of special environmental value, met with strong opposition. public.
Court documents, the company’s lawsuit and the final attitudes of environmental organizations show that the second concession was blocked at the approval stage of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, ESIA.
The National Environment Agency and the Ministry of Environment that were to approve the document have decided not to approve it, calling it incomplete and issuing a negative statement. According to the documents that BIRN has, the ministry claims that the ESIA did not fulfill the suggestions made by it, nor the legal obligations of its consultations with the public.
“The natural state and biodiversity values of the Vjosa River are among the highest in the Balkans, with hundreds of new creatures, two of which were previously unknown to science. The area offers terrestrial and aquatic habitats for endangered species of birds, mammals, migratory fish. “The implementation of the project negatively affects the entire special ecosystem of the area, threatening to the extinction of these creatures”, it is said in the negative statement of the Ministry of Environment.
After that, Ayen-Alb addressed the Administrative Court with a lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment. The lawsuit aims to overturn the negative statement that practically blocks the work for HEC. The company claims that “issuing this environmental statement in” negative “quality is an unjustified act and unsupported by law.”
In the lawsuit documents, the company claims, among other things, that the ESIA proposed by it provided solutions to the problems raised in the negative statement and that biodiversity would be protected through mitigation measures that minimized the impact. “In this way, the impacts remaining after the mitigation measures will be managed and mitigated through this plan,” the lawsuit states.
For the EcoAlbania organization; EuroNatur; Riverwatch and 39 area residents who became part of the lawsuit as secondary intruders denied the company’s claims. In their submissions, the organizations informed the court that the EIA was based in large part on studies conducted by a group of scientists who have been protesting against the dams in the Vjosa for years.
So the same data, taken from studies conducted by European scientists (promoted and supported by Riverwatch, EcoAlbania, Euro Natur, etc.), who have concluded to stop the dams on the Vjosa mainstream, have been used in the In-Depth Report of the ESIA in a selective and truncated manner to suggest the opposite, ”the submissions state.
According to the submitters of the interveners, about 80 percent of the EIA chapters have used the summary of studies on the Vjosa River, Acta ZooBot Austria Nr. 155/1, year 2018 and that the compilers of the EIA themselves have used as scientific references the scientific publications of the team of Albanian and foreign scientists that have become part of the campaign “Vjosa without dams”.
In the submissions they say that the data obtained from their unauthorized studies, often duplicated verbatim, have been taken out of context and distorted to present the opposite of what they document.
The court ruling, however, has raised hopes that the project could be stopped and the Vjosa could gain national park status. In a response, EcoAlbania described the court ruling as a message to the government.
“We welcome the court’s decision and think that this is another message given to the government that it should finally give up the construction of hydropower plants and declare the entire Vjosa Valley National Park as soon as possible,” said Olsi Nika, from EcoAlbania.
Ulrich Eichelmann, head of Riverwatch, wrote on Twitter that the decision meant that “the Kalivac dam project is dead and the Vjosa is safe.” / Birn /