LIFE ON A RIVER
The Vjosa in southern Albania is Europe’s last large free flowing river. Over a 270 kilometres course it flows without restriction from its source to mouth, making it not only geographically unique but also rich in terms of ecological biodiversity.
However, this pristine environment is under threat and Europe’s last great river is in danger of becoming restricted by two large hydroelectric dams.
This majestic river has provided a way of life for millennia, with its importance recorded in antiquity. Its waters provided life to villages and cities and gave rise to cultures and histories revered still to this day. Her banks have witnessed historical battles and the passing armies of Phillip V of Macedonia, Pompey and Caesar. More recently, during the harsh Albanian communist era of the 20th century it brought discarded items from its source in Greece downstream to the needy impoverished Albanians who mended and reused these precious items of trash to improve their daily lives.
The Vjosa is still to this day the great provider to the Albanian communities who inhabit the valleys that she passes through. Several of the tributaries already have small hydroelectric plants with more planned. Other tributaries such as Bëncë near Tepelenë are presently pristine but are planned to accommodate six hydroelectric plants that will divert water and destroy the ecosystem.
This wild river is the last line between the Europe of the past and a questionable source of energy for the future. It is the focus of numerous organisation across Europe and Albania who fear that a unique and glorious river will soon be no more.