Advancing collaboration for Sustainable Development in the Vjosa River Basin

13. May 2024
Vjosa River
Over 70 participants from academia, civil society, and government agencies attended a dissemination workshop on the APPEAR Project VjoSusDev on 29 April in Tirana, Albania.

The workshop presented the initial two years' progress of the APPEAR Project251: “Environmental assessment of the Vjosa riverscape as the basis for an integrated water management and sustainable catchment development” (VjoSusDev).  It was organized jointly by the Department of Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana, National Agency of Protected Areas (NAPA) and Consortium Euronatur (Germany) as well as Ecoalbania (Albania). The aim was to discuss recent data gathered by the project team and establish best practices for conserving the Vjosa National Park and ensuring sustainable development in the Vjosa River Basin. Stakeholders from various fields related to the development, conservation, and management of the Vjosa River Basin were brought together for this purpose. More than 70 participants attended the workshop, including academics, civil society and representative of relevant government institutions, showing a great interest in mutual exchange and cooperation. After welcome words by representatives of the involved institutions (University or Tirana, University of Vienna, BOKU, Austrian Development Agency, OeAD) numerous scientific presentations were held by project members and relevant other stakeholders. The workshop was part of the work package 4: “Science-Society interactions for sustainable development” of the APPEAR Project251.

The Vjosa River, renowned as one of Europe's last wild rivers, achieved the status of a National Park in 2023, marking it as the first National Park of a Wild River in Europe. This milestone was the result of collaborative efforts involving the Albanian Government, local and international experts, environmental organizations, IUCN, and Patagonia. The park encompasses the Vjosa River and its tributaries, totaling over 400 km, preserving them as natural, free-flowing rivers. Following the declaration, preparations began for the Vjosa Wild River National Park Integrated Management Plan under the leadership of the National Agency of Protected Areas (NAPA). This involved a comprehensive ecological study, methodology development, identification of main threats, establishment of measuring indicators, and defining parameters for environmental monitoring. The Water Resources Management Agency (AMBU) of Albania is tasked with ensuring good governance of water resources to meet vital needs while considering ecosystem sustainability. In recent years, AMBU has developed and approved several Integrated River Basin Management Plans (IRBMPs) for various river basins in Albania, with plans underway for the Vjosa IRBMP.

The VjoSusDev Project, running from 2022 to 2026, aims to assess the environmental aspects of the Vjosa River for integrated water management and sustainable development. Continuous engagement with governmental institutions at central and regional levels is thus crucial. The overarching goal is to establish closer cooperation through information exchange and collaboration, contributing to sustainable development in the Vjosa River Basin.