Europe’s last wild river, Vjosa, has been declared a National Park under full national and cross-border protection according to the highest international standards. The Vjosa-Aoös River, spanning 272 kilometres from its source to the sea, will be preserved as a free-flowing river for the benefit of the people and the environment in Albania a Greece.
Albania’s Prime Minister Rama stated that the decision was a milestone event in the effort to protect nature and transform the mindset about nature. The declaration formalizes the government’s commitment to protect the river and promote sustainable economic and social development. The National Park will be a unique addition to Albania and Europe, and it will include a new, sustainable attraction on the European tourist map.
Albania has already designated 21% of its territory as protected areas, and the government aims to expand it to 30% of the entire country. Creating protected areas does not mean denying local residents the right to their economic and social development. Instead, it offers a new development perspective. Among others, the company Patagonia is partnering with the government to offer know-how and experience in boosting the economy and social success of the residents living in or near these protected areas.
A budget of 80 Million USD has been set aside for the park. It will be used to prevent sewage from flowing into the river by providing a major sewerage and drainage system project for all the municipalities along which the Vjosa River flows. The fund will also offer financial assistance through grants or soft loans for new businesses in the area, which will be nature-friendly ones that align with the transformation of the region.
The park will house a centre of excellence, a research and projects development center that will coordinate all sources of knowledge on how to manage a National Park of this size in the 21st century, in this time of such great challenges. The park is also expected to attract 20% more visitors compared to equally scenic landscapes that are not protected areas.