Summer season 2012 was opened on 1 June in Velipojë, when more than 10,000 people took part in different activites organized throughout the day by the Municipality of Velipojë, such as a handicraft fair, paintings exhibition, children’s corner, sport matches and a rock concert. IUCN participated in this event by supporting the cleaning and restoration of a section of Velipojë beach, part of the Protected Water and Terrestrial Landscape of the Buna River.
“For the first time in the history of Velipojë we are organizing a festive ceremony with different activities, aiming at the awareness raising of the tourism potential of the area”, says Pashko Ujka, the Mayor of Velipojë. “Let me emphasize that the two main pillars of the new policy in the Velipojë Municipality are: tourism and environment. This is not an easy task but the process already started. I am sure this will be a long process but we believe in it, and that is the only way to go if we would like to see another image of Velipojë in the near future”.
IUCN supported the event and raised awareness of the importance of the protection of the natural beauty of this area which attracts thousands of tourists every year. Through the project “Institutional Support for Protected Areas in Albania” IUCN promotes an innovative approach for the management of the Buna River protected site, aiming to demonstrate a broad range of benefits that local communities can enjoy from preserved and well-functioning ecosystems. IUCN and the Italian Cooperation are currently supporting Velipojë community’s efforts to clean up and restore 200 metres of beach. When completed, it is expected that nearly 1,000m3 of rubble left over from the demolition of illegal buildings in the town will be removed from the shore. “A cleaner beach and town mean a more welcoming environment for tourists and nature alike”, says Andrea Ghiurghi, IUCN Project Manager. “IUCN is glad to participate in this effort and stands ready to support the community to promote a sustainable development of the area”.
The central activity of the season opening was the handicraft fair organised in cooperation with the Association of Handicrafts of the Shkodra Region. A variety of local products was exhibited and available for sale along the fair stands. Traditional “Kallmet” wine and Raki from the Shtoj area, strong cheeses, goat and sheep milk provided by mountain shepherds, polyfloral honey from the biodiversity rich forest and meadows of the region, wooden carpets, wood crafts, silk and cotton fabric were some of the most interesting products traded on the fair. “Tourism is becoming one of the main economic drivers of the area, and handicrafts and traditional products are our contribution to the promotion of the area”, says Zef Gjini, head of the Shkodra Handicrafts Association.
The Velipojë Artist Colony has organised the exhibition with paintings of magnificent natural sites of the region. Celebrating the International Children’s Day, a special corner was designated for school contests on topics related to geography, history and natural sciences. Music, dances and other performances were organised in cooperation with the “CreativeCity” for children’s entertainment. This day saw several beach football and beach volley matches, but the one that got the most attention was the Albania National Beach football team vs Kosovo (UN1244) National Beach football team. The event culminated with the concert of Albanian rock Band “Elita 5” who performed live for all the people gathered in the centre of the Velipojë beach.