Inside the fight for the first national park of wild rivers in Europe -Dlight News

Inside the fight for the first national park of wild rivers in Europe

WHEN you see the abandoned construction site, it’s not hard to marvel at what might have been. We floated around a bend in the river in our raft and there it was: two colossal man-made banks below scarred slopes, stranded bulldozers and cement hoppers.

These are the abandoned remains of the Kalivaç dam project on the Vjosa River in Albania, which has been dubbed “Europe’s last wild river”. If the developers had had their way, this would now be the site of a 43 meter high hydroelectric dam with a large reservoir behind it. Instead, in March, the The Albanian government declared the entirety of Vjosa and many of its tributaries a wild river national park, the first (and probably the last) of its kind in Europe, spared in perpetuity from a fate that has befallen many of the rivers in this part of the world.

The Vjosa is special because it flows completely freely. Apart from the remains of the Kalivaç project, there are no dams, barriers or artificial slopes. Now it will stay that way. Mostly.

Dams generate hydroelectric power, but they are disastrous for biodiversity and other crucial ecological gifts that rivers bestow on us. So saving Vjosa is a great victory for nature, including the critically endangered Balkan lynx and European eel, and an inspiration for other river conservation projects. It’s also rare good news in the context of the shocking state of many of the world’s rivers. But the battle for…