IUCN helps defend Vjosa in Albania, the final wild free-flowing river in Europe – Story

By Julia Horwitz

Vjosa is among the final wild free-flowing rivers in Europe. As a part of the “Blue Coronary heart of Europe”, this lovely river incorporates not less than 11 main tributaries coming in from Greece and Albania, and is 272km lengthy. The Albanian authorities has dedicated to guard this untouched river ecosystem as a part of their nationwide commitments to halt the worldwide biodiversity and local weather crises. To attain efficient conservation of the Vjosa River, the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Surroundings is in a singular and supportive partnership with the eco-friendly firm Patagonia, with native civil society and environmental teams, and with the technical assist of IUCN. Nevertheless, reaching full conservation of this river would require options to many difficulties and points. With out dedication to safety, the river is confronted with quite a few hydro and infrastructure venture proposals, however with the assistance of native conservation organisations and IUCN’s steerage, this river could be successfully protected. IUCN defines all protected areas as “A clearly outlined geographical house, acknowledged, devoted and managed, by authorized or different efficient means, to attain the long-term conservation of nature with related ecosystem companies and cultural values”. The dedication by Albania is to safe a designation for Vjosa that clearly falls beneath the definition of a protected space. To additional word, the plan is to develop an IUCN class II protected space, an “space to be managed for ecosystem safety and recreation”, and to align its future administration to the IUCN Inexperienced Checklist Commonplace for equitable and efficient protected areas.


Practically 30% of the Aoos-Vjosa river, together with the supply, lies in Greece, with the opposite 70% flowing by Albania and emptying into the Adriatic Sea. This lovely riverscape is crammed with meanders, oxbow lakes and canyons. Nevertheless, probably the most excellent factor about this river are the tributaries. Stretching alongside Greek and Albanian territories, the tributaries are largely free flowing and comparatively untouched by human exercise. As our world develops daily, and we have gotten more and more obsessive about making an attempt to personal and make things better, we should additionally guarantee we safeguard these distinctive locations and processes which aren’t but damaged. Together with that, because the inhabitants of our world grows every day, so does the necessity for assets, house and financial progress. On this particular case, electrical energy, partially generated by Hydro Electrical Energy (HEP) is in excessive demand. One other facet is the historical past of the area and the river itself. Like in every single place on our planet, there are cultural and conventional recollections hooked up to the land. Vjosa particularly, has a big neighborhood of people that reside on the floodplain and who use the water for on a regular basis requirements. Some individuals require it for farming or agricultural causes as a result of soil being so fertile and having such shut proximity to water. Folks profit from residing in/close to a nationwide park as a result of environmental benefits that it presents. Certainly, the vast majority of native individuals and communities assist this conservation venture, which is a necessary basis for nature conservation.

A bunch of energetic environmental NGOs have launched the marketing campaign of “Save the Blue Coronary heart of Europe”. This marketing campaign has performed a big function within the data relating to the river itself in addition to its surrounding areas. It helps the purpose to show Vjosa right into a nationwide park that meets IUCN Requirements, and halts all future  HEP plant improvement.


Greater than a yr in the past, the Albanian Authorities declared the Vjosa Valley to change into a protected space. Since then, IUCN has been working in assist of efficient safety for the Vjosa and its free-flowing tributaries, to carry them beneath conservation administration. Working alongside out of doors attire model Patagonia, and totally supporting the Authorities of Albania, with native NGOs, the following step is to create a grasp plan for a way the imaginative and prescient of efficient administration could be legally carried out and operational, in full session with native stakeholders.


  1. Protect the wildlife and ecosystem (a number of species which are presently beneath the danger of extinction).
    1. Help environmental processes.
    2. Maintain the “ecological construction” the identical to ensure that it to have the ability to flourish and proceed to develop.
  2. Regulation of appropriate and complementary actions.
    1. Assess the potential for small and medium enterprises to interact in appropriate financial actions, reminiscent of ecotourism
    2. This contains excluding actions that can disturb/destruct the atmosphere reminiscent of mining, extraction, air pollution, and many others.
  3. Maintain the free-flowing river untouched.
    1. Primarily, to limit infrastructure improvement, particularly HEP vegetation and impactful trade


While finishing such a prolonged and resource-intensive planning course of, you will need to take into consideration the entire sides of the story and who’s concerned. Though Albania faces some financial and improvement challenges, the dedication to Vjosa is a globally-significant assertion of intent. This river and its tributaries might doubtlessly be used for hydroelectric energy (HEP) vegetation, so worldwide assist to assist offset any alternative price and maximize incentives and advantages from conservation have to be explored.

In addition to direct impacts, there are additionally already excessive charges of air pollution related to infrastructure and trade. The threats to the valley itself embody:

  • Land degradation
  • Urbanization
  • Small HEP vegetation
  • Extraction/mining (of each oil, water and gravel)
  • Intensification of agriculture
  • The event of tourism.

Because the IUCN continues to assist safety for Vjosa and the encircling areas, there’s a have to preserve highlighting the native and regional advantages of safety, in addition to the worldwide significance. When it comes to biodiversity, there could possibly be a threat of additional loss with out efficient safety. There are various migratory species (birds and fish) whose houses within the Vjosa river are beneath menace from any infrastructure-related impacts.


IUCN’s goal is to assist the Albanian Authorities and companions to attain a steady, truthful and efficient, long run and sustained conservation outcome for one of many final free-flowing wild river in Europe. By way of the assistance of mitigation strategies, assist from our members and companions, political will in Albania, and the extended onerous work, there is no such thing as a doubt that Albania shall achieve its purpose for Vjosa. The onerous work will proceed day-and-night to 2030 and past, however IUCN, will assist Vjosa over the long-term. That’s what conservation actually requires! To assist IUCN and Albania in defending the Vjosa, please get in contact and be a part of the Blue Coronary heart Marketing campaign!


Safety Research of the Vjosa River Valley Based mostly on IUCN Protected Space … https://portals.iucn.org/library/websites/library/recordsdata/paperwork/2021-011-En.pdf  

“Eu Nature Restoration Legislation: A Increase for Biodiversity and Local weather.” IUCN, 28 June 2022, https://www.iucn.org/information/europe/202206/eu-nature-restoration-law-a-boost-biodiversity-and-climate  

“Vjosa Nationwide Park Now.” Save the Blue Coronary heart of Europe, https://www.balkanrivers.internet/en/vjosanationalparknow  

The Fauna of the Vjosa River and the Adjoining Floodplain at POÇEM. https://balkanrivers.internet/uploads/legacy/Vjosa_assessment_201709.pdf  

Freeman, Liam. “How Patagonia Are Preventing to Save Europe’s Wild Rivers.” I, 13 June 2022, https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/n7zj7m/patagonia-river-vjosa-interview

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