New airport near the Narta Lagoon, Albania
On 25 January 2018, the Albanian parliament decided to vote in favor of opening concession negotiation procedures for construction of a new airport close to the city of Vlora, near the village of Akërni, which is located within Vjose-Narte Protected Landscape (IUCN Category V) in south-west Albania.
The idea for the construction of an airport in this area dates back to the 1960s and 1970s when a small airport track was used for military purposes during has been justified on basis that. However, this track is not comparable to the size of a new commercial airport “as big as the Tirana International Airport”, planned to be built by the Albanian government.
Vjose-Narte Protected Landscape stretches to around 20,000 hectares and represents the second most important site in Albania due to the high presence of waterbirds that use the site during wintering, migration and breeding seasons. Besides the magnificent landscapes, this area includes a wide range of valuable habitats making the Vjose-Narta ecosystem quite unique along the entire Adriatic coast, including elements such as the sea lagoons, the Salinas, the lowland forest, sand dunes and stretches of wide fields combined with rich cultural and historical values.
Furthermore, this area represents one of the most important areas with high biodiversity values, especially for avifauna. It represents an Important Bird Area (IBA), it is part of the Emerald Network as an area of Special Conservation Interest; it is a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA); it is an area currently under the evaluation for the Natura 2000 network in Albania and moreover, it is part of the Protected Areas network of Albania, having obtained the status of Protected Landscape in 2004. In addition, the Narta lagoon is the second most important foraging site for the Dalmatian pelican in Albania.
Construction of the airport in an area with such a large presence of bird species can have negative effects both for the avifauna and the aviation industry itself. Construction of this kind of infrastructure, threatens the ecologic integrity of this area because of habitat alienation during investment phase and continuous disturbance during the operational phase. As such it is also a threat to the development of sustainable tourism. In addition, this construction violates regulatory and legal norms for protected areas in Albania. Based on national and international standards and on the legislative framework for the management of protected areas and areas with high natural values, the construction of this airport, which would have a devastating impact on the ecosystem of Vjose-Narte and the wider Adriatic coast, should be prohibited and its location should be re-considered by the Albanian authorities.
Article by Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA)
For more information contact Xhemal Xherri