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News 02 Jun 17

Green Campaigners Win Right To Sue Albanian Govt

Green activists and people from the Tropoja region have hailed a court ruling in Tirana, which allows them to continue their fight against the construction of power plants on a pristine river.

Fatjona Mejdini
The construction of hydropower plants in Valbona Vallery is going on. Photo: BIRN/Ivana Dervishi

Environmentalists in Albania and locals from four villages in the Tropoja on Friday hailed a court ruling allowing them to sue government ministries that have given private companies concessions to build hydropower plants on the Valbona River in the so-called Albanian Alps.

Catherine Bohne Selimaj, director of the Toka organisation and a resident of the area, told BIRN that the Administrative Court in Tirana had set a welcome precedent by allowing the citizens to sue the government for damaging their environment.

Villagers with the support of NGOs went to court on May 18 to overturn a decision approving construction of two hydropower plants on the pristine river, which they say will be wrecked by the dams of the power plants.

"We feel encouraged to continue our fight for the absolute cancellation of the government contracts that allow the construction of the plants on the Valbona. The court has created a precedent concerning the rights of citizens to sue the government over environmental concerns," she said.

The fact that the courtroom had been "packed with media and diplomats, all there for our case, gives us good hope to continue this court battle," she added.

However, the court in Tirana ruled against the request of the environmental groups and citizens to immediately suspend work on two plants which has already started.

Despite that, the activists believe they have an opportunity to continue the fight for the cancellation of the concessions.

Lavdosh Ferruni a green activist in Tirana, told BIRN that overall they were the beneficiaries of the court rulings. "It is a good day - and we are optimistic and inspired to continue our battle," he said.

The lawsuit had asked the court to nullify the contracts for two hydropower plants that are under construction in a designated National Park.

Villagers say the procedures that the ministry of industry, ministry of environment and other state agencies followed in granting permits violated laws on protected areas.

They maintain also that the concessions were granted without prior public consultation, and insist that realisation of the project will take a heavy toll on the touristic potential of the area.

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