European Union Delegation in Albania Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Presence in Albania

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1 The Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). The Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat European Union Delegation in Albania Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Presence in Albania United Nations Development Program in Albania World Bank mission in Albania Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Italian Agency for Development Cooperation Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) Albania Swedish International Development Agency United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) European Bank for Reconstruction and Development International Financial Co-operation BirdLife Europe BirdLife International EuroNatur Foundation International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) NOE Conservation Tour du Valat Wetlands International World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) 1

2 From: NGO initiating Coalition composed by ALBANIAN ORNITHOLOGICAL SOCIETY (AOS) ECO ALBANIA LEX FERENDA PSEDA ILIRIA, Subject: Save Divjaka-Karavasta National Park from the Urbanization Dear Madame/Sir, We would like to inform you of some very disturbing news regarding Divjaka-Karavasta National Park, a Ramsar Site under the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention), an Emerald Site under the Convention on the Conservation of Wildlife and Natural Habitats in Europe (Bern Convention) and an Important Bird Area (recognized by BirdLife International). Mabetex Group, a company based in Switzerland, is proposing to the Government of Albania the Master Plan Divjake Resort Albania. It is merely a construction plan despite calling it a Tourism Master Plan. It covers an area of 1,170 ha and it foresees constructions over 12 km of coastal line, a tourism resort of circa 90 ha, 370 villas, 2,400 apartments and 4,300 hotel beds. In total, the resort would welcome up to 18,000 visitors per day. The plan wipes out critical areas and habitats for wildlife and it is a highly risky plan for biodiversity in Albania. Due to the international importance of Divjaka-Karavasta in terms of biodiversity, this plan endangers also the European biodiversity. An NGO coalition has reacted against this construction plan but the coalition is afraid that there is already a negative political will towards NGO concerns. A first public consultation has already taken place on the 17 th of March Worth to mention that only 2 days of notice were given to participants. A majority of persons could therefore not attend the meeting. Further, the NGO coalition has sent, on the 24 th of March, two separate letters to the Ministry of Environment which have yet not received any replies. Through the first letter, the NGO coalition has demanded information regarding the Master Plan Resort Divjakë Albania including the procedures followed during public consultation. This information will allow us to know if our legal framework on Strategic Environmental Assessment has been properly implemented and to address the courts in case of legislation infringement. So 2

3 far, there has been no response to this letter. The Government of Albania considers this construction as strategic although nature conservation is also considered as strategic. Through the second letter, the above alliance expresses its preliminary strong opposition against the current Master Plan highlighting that: 1. The information we have at this date shows that the Resort Divjake Albania Plan does not take into account and destroys a major part of natural values and biological diversity of the area which is of particular importance for Albania and beyond. The Plan attacks the whole territory and values of the National Park Divjaka-Karavasta, harms the integrity of the National Park and is in total breach with the Law 8906/2002 On Protected Areas as amended and the Decision of Council of Ministers Nr. 402 dated On the designation of natural ecosystem Divjake-Karavasta with extended surface as National Park. In accordance with the above legal acts in a National Park is forbidden the construction of new roads, railways, new urban areas, underground or ground high voltage lines, gas and oil pipelines. 2. The construction of such a resort will pave the way to the destruction of other National Parks and Protected Areas in the country, as for any investor in tourism area, the protected areas are the most attractive places for them to invest. In addition to this, another developer is asking for construction and environmental permits in the Core Area of Landscape Protected Area of Vjose-Narta. 3. The plan does not consider the recommendations of the Management Plan of the National Park, drafted with the support of JICA and approved in 2016 by the Minister of Environment. This Plan forbids the construction of new urban areas. It foresees tourism activities to be developed only on designated recreational subzones. As it is, the Master Plan Divjake Resort Albania foresees constructions and urbanization of the Core and Sustainable Use Areas of the Park. 4. The proposed "Master Plan" would be in total breach of several International Conventions including: a. The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). In accordance with Chapter II. Article 4: The Contracting Parties in their planning and development policies shall have regard to the conservation requirements of the areas protected under the preceding paragraph, so as to avoid or minimise as far as possible any deterioration of such areas. The Contracting Parties undertake to give special 3

4 attention to the protection of areas that are of importance for the migratory species specified in Appendices II and III and which are appropriately situated in relation to migration routes, as wintering, staging, feeding, breeding or moulting areas. In accordance with Chapter III Protection of species, Article 6 Each Contracting Party shall take appropriate and necessary legislative and administrative measures to ensure the special protection of the wild fauna species specified in Appendix II. The following will in particular be prohibited for these species: (b) the deliberate damage to or destruction of breeding or resting sites and (c) the deliberate disturbance of wild fauna, particularly during the period of breeding, rearing and hibernation, insofar as disturbance would be significant in relation to the objectives of this Convention; b. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention) According to paragraph 2 of Article 3 of the Ramsar Convention text, Each Contracting Party shall arrange to be informed at the earliest possible time if the ecological character of any wetland in its territory and included in the List has changed, is changing or is likely to change as the result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference. Information on such changes shall be passed without delay to the organization or government responsible for the continuing bureau duties specified in Article 8. So far, the Albanian government has not informed the organization exercising the bureau duties. 5. The proposed "Master Plan" would be in total breach with the principles of nature protection of the European Union (Natura 2000 Network). Divjaka-Karavasta is part of the Emerald Network which is considered as predecessor of Natura 2000 sites. In addition, Divjaka-Karavasta is a pilot site for Natura 2000 covered by EU project on Natura 2000 in Albania. From the bird species present in the Park, at least 80 of them belong to the Annex 1 of Birds Directive. The species mentioned in Annex I shall be the subject of special conservation measures concerning their habitat in order to ensure their survival and reproduction in their area of distribution. 6. The plan negatively impacts 100% of the breeding populations for several bird species in Albania such as the Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmaeus), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Night Heron (Nyxtycorax nyctycorax) and Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides). The plan drastically reduces the number of 250 bird species that nest or winter in this ecosystem. Simultaneously, the plan will harm at least 35 species of mammals, 24 reptiles and 120 species of fish. A large part of those species are protected by the national legislation and Directives of the European Union. However, as the above information is still preliminary we expect that the number of species and habitats negatively impacted is much higher than our own current assessment. 4

5 Based on the above arguments, the alliance has asked the Government and the developer to draft another development plan that does not harm the species, habitats, ecosystem and the natural values of the National Park or to develop such kind of projects not close to the Protected Areas. In response to this letter and to the continued requests of NGOs for a second meeting, the Ministry of Environment is organizing a second public consultation on 6 April 2017 in Tirana. But we are afraid that there is already a strong political will from the Government to approve the plan as it is and as soon as possible. We have been informed that the Prime Minister s office has considered the Divjake Resort as a strategic development and has appointed a Working Group which is chaired by the Ministry of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Enterprise. The Ministry of Environment is part of this group through the National Agency for Protected Areas. In this context, we, the NGO coalition, believe that your support is urgently needed. We call upon the Secretariat of the Conventions to react as soon as possible. Please address your concern also to the Albanian Parliament, Albanian Council of Ministers and the Ministries involved. We stress the need to address the Council of Ministers directly as it is the institution promoting this plan. We call upon the International Conservation Organisations to react through letters to the Albanian Government and supporting the NGO coalition for the preservation of one of the most important wetlands in Albania and Adriatic Sea. We call upon International Banking Institutions already involved or planning to be involved to consider the huge negative environmental impact of such a construction plan. We call on the companies involved in this plan to reconsider the sustainability of their engagement as it is highly destructive to the most important site in terms of biodiversity in Albania and one of the two most important wetlands in the Adriatic coast. Looking forward to your support! Taulant Bino (On behalf of AOS. EcoAlbania, PSEDA Iliria and Lex Ferenda) 5

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