Experts recommend stricter and more effective rehabilitation of Albania's environment
More systematic monitoring, implementation of environmental rehabilitation policies and prevention of environmental damages is needed in rural areas across Albania, affected by extractive and energy industry operations. This recommendation made by representatives of local communities, municipalities, national authorities, were announced by Albanian and EU experts at a strategic expert meeting held in Tirana on September 27, 2019. BlueLink's senior advisor on policies and access to justice Plamen Peev, PhD, led the experts' work.
The event was held as part of the Rural Watch project, led by EcoPartners - Albania's prominent environmental consultancy, in partnership with BlueLink and ResPublika. The project is funded by the EU's National Fund for supporting civil society development in Albania. The project provided for detailed data assessment, field trips, meetings with local and national authorities, affected community representatives and businesses, as well as environmental, legal and policy expertise, the outcomes of which were presented and discussed today. Priority rural area hotspots covered across Albania have included: Chromium industry near Bulqiza, Hydropower Plants on the rivers Mat, Shkumbini River and the Shushica tributary of Vjosa; and oil extraction near Roskovec.
In a strategy paper, announced today, the international experts' team of the Rural Watch project recommend that in order to comply with EU standards, Albania's authorities and decision makers should:
- in case of infringement of environmental permit, as well as requirements arising from the national and international laws and agreements, take strict measures and even terminate operations
- commit to adopt and enforce the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) in order to hold polluters liable for damage to protected species or natural habitats, air, soil, water.
- adopt approaches and mechanisms to further facilitate a balance between industry development and environmental protection
- promote the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), PRTR, and other transparency initiatives which relate to environmental management and pollution
- adopt the precautionary principle with large-scale and risky operations (e.g. offshore drilling).
PPP aims at pollution prevention and control measures but also covering liability e.g. costs for the clean-up of damage to the environment. The PPP allocates the costs of pollution prevention and control measures to encourage rational use of scarce environmental resources and to avoid distortions in international trade and investment.
The Rural Watch project's manager Entela Pinguli announced that the project has identified weaknesses related to the environmental rehabilitation of the damages caused by extracting and energy industries (EEI). "Municipalities are not able to fulfil their monitoring obligations due to lack of resources, competences and technical equipment. There is a lack of transparency of the EEI business operations related the contractual issues and monitoring; and there is an existing gap between the policy implementation at the central and local level, which does not clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the local governments." said Pinguli.
A responsible business does its best to prevent, control and clean-up the damages to the environment, commented Dr Plamen Peev, a senior legal expert to the Rural Watch project. "In order to be sustainable the business should seek not only economic gains but be socially responsible and environmentally sound and care and sustain what is the basis for life for many generations ahead," Peev explained, and concluded that for this reason the Polluters Pay Principle is an optimal solution for Albania.
The project addresses some of the most pressing issues of the rural development in Albania related to the quality of life and keeping the standards for clean and safe environment. Overall project objectives include: improved environmental performances of energy and extractive industries in Albanian rural areas; Increased transparency and accountability of public authorities and businesses related to extractive and energy industry (EEI) in rural areas; and rural communities (women and men) better informed and empowered to monitor and control energy and extractive industry in rural areas.
The project’s specific objective is strengthening civil society’s role in promoting monitoring standards and ensuring the sustainable use of the natural resources from extractive and energy industry in rural areas. For the purpose of achieving these goals, Rural Watch supports journalists covering extractive and energy issues, the environment, transparency and accountability of public authorities and the business. With BlueLink's conceptual contribution, the project has developed an online platform which will be used an information resource as well as an outreach tool for the project communication strategy towards communities, Journalist and lawyers relevant to the target areas.
Another important thing
In order to keep supporting the strtategic use of information and telecommunication technologies and the internet by civil society, for the sake of nature protection, common European values and democracy, we need to be independent. You can support us by making a donation to the BlueLink Foundation. Learn more about BlueLink's mission, vision and activities here.