Limited employment opportunities are at the heart of socio-economic and environmental challenges that the communes in the protected areas are facing. Mr Haxhi Collaku, Mayor of Rrajca Commune in Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park shares his thoughts on challenges that life in a protected area brings, and stresses the willingness to support the initiatives that would help address this issue.
- How do you see the future of the Rrajca Commune within the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park?
The area of Rrajca in the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes and biodiversity rich areas of Elbasan, in my opinion. It received the status of Strict Natural Reserve in 1996, and now it is also part of the Central Area of the National Park. For the Rrajca Commune and its inhabitants, this area is source of livelihoods – it is where we graze our animals, collect medicinal plants and timber products and where the water for the households comes from. This is what Rrajca is today, but we also want Rrajca to have more: developed eco-tourism, for example, as well as other sustainable livelihood activities.
- What are the socio-economic and environmental challenges of the Rrajca Commune?
Some of the environmental challenges we face in the Rrajca Commune are illegal forest cutting, unsustainable collection of medicinal and aromatic plants, illegal hunting and fishing and the development of too many hydropower schemes. I believe these issues are notable in the whole park. The main socio-economic problems are related to the limited employment opportunities, and so are the environmental problems I have mentioned.
- How do you plan to contribute to the sustainable management of the National Park?
We are ready to support the sustainable management of the National Park. We are open for cooperation on any initiative which aims at the sustainable development of the area, and would encourage local communities to get involved in such processes. We welcome the guidelines resulting from the management plan, and will continue to do our best to implement them.
- What would you advice to the stakeholders involved in the preparation of the management plan for the National Park?
I would encourage all those working on the management plan to try to assure also the means for its short- and long-term implementation. It is often the case, and it applies to Albania as well, that many ideas and plans remain just on paper.
Prepared by Mirjan Topi, PPNEA