Within the Pindos-Prespes Connectivity Conservation Area runs one of the longest free-flowing rivers in Europe, the Aoos/Vjosa, shared between Greece and Albania. The Aoos basin’s extensive hydrographic network of rivers and streams is part of a crucial transboundary ecological corridor for numerous species, notably mammals such as the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) and fish, e.g., the critically endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla). Almost 2/3 of the basin overlaps with the Northern Pindos National Park, with the unprotected stretch located in the Konitsa Municipality, at a distance from the Protected Area’s Management Unit.
The Ri-Connect project is funded via the Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust (PONT) Environmental Actors Programme (Pindos-Prespes Connectivity Conservation Area) and will run for two years between July 2023 to June 2025. Its aim is to maintain the free flow of the Aoos river and its tributaries as a transboundary ecological corridor and a resource for community development. This general objective is timely and of vital importance not least due to pressures to river connectivity and imminent threats such as the planned small hydropower plants.
More specifically, river connectivity is plighted by pressures such as the lack of e-flow for the dam at the river’s sources and of a fish ladder in the Konitsa irrigation dam and is threatened by the planned development of 49 small hydropower plants, the majority of which are located in the unprotected Sarantaporos river sub-basin.
The abovementioned will undermine the transboundary and international efforts of the last 10 years under the ‘Save the blue heart of Europe’ campaign to conserve the free flow of the Aoos/Vjosa river and destroy its value as a transboundary ecological corridor.
To contribute to tackling these challenges, the Ri-Connect project aims to
- Foster active citizenship to mobilise local communities to actively defend their invaluable resource.
- Address key river connectivity issues and support institutional protection of the entire river basin.
- Raise awareness to a diverse international, national and local audience.