Albania has recently significantly expanded the extension of its network of protected areas, doubling it between 2005 and 2009 from 5.8 % to 12.57 % of the total land area of the country. The Government of Albania’s programme on Environmental Protection and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources states as one of its priorities to guarantee not only the protection of the PAs network but also their further development through the strengthening of their income-generating potential without compromising their preservation.
Italian Cooperation and IUCN experts, in close collaboration and consultation with Albanian counterparts, the Ministry of Environment, identified priority governmental needs in the areas of safeguarding the ecosystem services, the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources in protected areas. Within the framework of this process, specific needs for the institutional strengthening of the MoE were identified as priority requirements to improve its capacity in the above mentioned spheres of its responsibility.
The project will specifically contribute to the enhancement of local socio-economic conditions through the promotion of alternative sustainable economic activities for local populations residing near or within two selected sites: Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park and the Protected Water and Terrestrial Landscape of the Buna River and surrounding area. Shebenik-Jabllanicë and the Buna River protected site have been selected as they both provide vast ecosystem services for the population, for example guaranteeing the quality and permanence of water and preventing coastal erosion. Both these areas are also bordering with other countries and it is expected that the dialogue on biodiversity conservation between Albania and these two countries will lead to a broader systemic approach to conservation.
A set of technical and methodological tools for the effective management of the Buna River protected area and Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park ecosystems is developed consistently with the ecosystem approach.
Adequate technical, procedural and infrastructural capacities of MoE central and local administrations are increased.
The Management Plans for the Buna River protected area and Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park are prepared. The management plans will be developed following IUCN WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) Management Planning Guidelines and will tackle all dimensions of sustainable development (social, institutional, economic and environmental) in an integrated fashion, with the ultimate goal of promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, as well as fostering a harmonic socio-economic development.
The Buna River protected area and Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park become more effective conservation and development units as the first actions identified in their management plans are implemented.
A guideline manual for the preparation of participatory protected area management plans is prepared consistently with the IUCN WCPA protected area management plan standards and ecosystem approach promoted by the project.
The 2 years long project's full title is: Institutional Support to the Albanian Ministry of Environment for Sustainable Biodiversity Conservation and Use in Protected Areas and the Management of Waste, and it is funded by the Italian Cooperation (website of the Italian Cooperation in Albania).