On Friday, 10 November, the 2nd Bilateral Meeting for the exchange of views on the Aoos/Vjosa River took place, with the participation of Regional & Local Authorities, Water Management Agencies from both countries, Greece and Albania and civil society organizations. Present were the Regional Governors of Epirus, Vlorë and Gjirokastër, the Mayors of Zagori and Konitsa, the Head of the Water Resources Monitoring and Protection Department of the Water Directorate of Epirus, a representative of the Municipality of Përmet, as well as representatives of other Municipalities and Communities from both sides of the border. Civil society organisations were represented by MedINA and Pindos Perivallontiki from Greece, and EcoAlbania from Albania. Representatives of the Austrian Development Agency, which financially supported the action, were also present.
Dimitris Papageorgiou, coordinator of the “Ri-Connect: The Aoos River as a Transboundary Ecological Corridor” project for MedINA, in his presentation entitled ‘Aoos|Pressures & Threats, an obstacle to the designation of the 1st Transboundary Wild River Park in Europe’ referred to the intense pressures currently affecting the Aoos River and its tributaries, as well as the ever-emerging threats affecting the entire Greek river basin, with a focus on the 48 planned Small Hydropower Plant Projects (SHPPs).
Other presentations delved into topics such as the 2nd Revision of the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) of Epirus, the need for transboundary cooperation, joint effective water management and the resolution of issues related to the transboundary Aoos/Vjosa. In the discussions that followed the interest was maintained, with Greek and Albanian stakeholders agreeing that the preservation of the free flow and the excellent ecological status of the river and its tributaries, as well as the need for their institutional protection, are top priorities for both countries, in order to achieve, as soon as possible, the creation of a single Transboundary Aoos/Vjosa Park, the first of its kind in Europe.
The meeting concluded with a visit to the ‘Vjosa-Narta’ area, a protected landscape under Albanian law, where the Aoos/Vjosa river flows. The organiser of the meeting, EcoAlbania, prepared a special tour to the lagoon of Narta and the island of Zvernec, where the rich wetland life made us realise the importance of the Aoos/Vjosa as a source of life, constantly supplying the lagoon with sediment, nutrients and valuable fresh water. The ecological importance of the Narta wetland demonstrates once again the importance of considering a river ecosystem as a whole, from its source to its estuary, rather than fragmented parts managed on the basis of different protection regimes and administrative boundaries.
Featured image © EcoAlbania.