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Environmental activists and prominent intellectuals have condemned Tirana city hall for allowing the expansion of a road into part of the city's green lung.
|Road expansion threatens Tirana's main park | Photo by : Besar Likmeta|
Albanian greens say large chunks of the capital's main park are being ploughed up for an expanded road without any public consultation.
“We want the municipality to make the project for the road expansion public,” Artan Lame, head of the Cultural Heritage Foundation, told a rally on Friday.
“This illegal construction should stop immediately and if there is actually a project behind it, the municipality has a legal obligation to make it public,” he added.
Crews involved in widening Elbasani Street have already cut down trees in 5,000 square metres of the park in the past week.
The project, which envisages the road becoming a six-lane highway, is also expected to demolish part of the outer wall and garden of the Palace of Brigades, a historic residence built on the eve World War Two for Albania’s King Zog.
Xhemal Mato, head of EkoLevizja, an umbrella group of environmental NGOs, told Balkan Insight that for years activists had asked the municipality to designate Tirana’s main park a protected area - a request that fell on deaf ears.
“The road expansion is being carried out without a project and without a permit or environmental impact study,” Mato claimed.
“The park is being degraded day by day,” he added.
As signatory to the 1998 Aarhus convention on access to information, Albania’s Ministry of Environment is obliged to grant the public access to information and allow the public to participate in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the environment.
In a statement the municipality washed its hands of the affair, saying that the expansion of the road was being carried out by the country's general directorate of roads, and the new 1.7 kilometer highway would serve the community.
“Everything is being carried out according to the law and the citizens’ interest,” the municipality said.
The activists believe that the project will serve the interest of developers rather than the public, by linking the city centre with newly constructed suburban neighborhoods and a recently finished mall.
“Here we have a captured state which drafts laws in the interest of bandits,” political commentator Fatos Lubonja said.
“The construction industry has created a cancer, which is making this city uninhabitable and government serves the interests of these individuals rather than the public,” he added.
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