Albania struggles with environmental challenges

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Albania struggles with environmental challenges

Albanias rich biodiversity was preserved by the countrys utter political isolation right up to the early 1990s. But as the economy opens up and Albania modernizes, the countrys lush countryside is at risk, Deutsche Welle reports.

The countrys relatively good ecological record can be traced to a series of factors, from good water and air quality to rich biodiversity and plentiful natural resources. But that is the result, not of well-targeted environmental policies, but rather the countrys decades-long political isolation.

But in reality, Albania is not as green as it appears. Albanians spend, for example, a fifth of their salaries on garbage disposal fees. But even the steep prices dont guarantee the trash is picked up.

Maria Christina Frber, a Swiss nurse and therapeutic specialist, has fought for better environmental preservation in Albania for decades. She says poor infrastructure isnt the only reason for the countrys chaotic garbage disposal system. She blames the rise of mafia-like structures in the sector linked to illegal waste transport from Italy. The latter, instead of Albanian rubbish, is often dumped on landfill sites.

Complicating matters, says Frber, is Albanians general lack of sensitivity towards climate issues a trend that picked up after the country opened up to outside influences in the 1990s. European consumption habits emerged here, disposable items including plastic bags that are choking the country there is no system of disposal, she says.

Another problem is posed by old, rusting industrial facilities, especially in steel production. The Elbasan steel combine is Albanias largest industrial complex, churning out 759,000 tons of steel a year. In 1998, Turkish company Krm Holding Co bought the factory and signed a contract agreeing to completely fulfill the countrys demand for steel in the long run. But the Turkish company has failed to modernize the facility despite rows with various Albanian government ministries for failing to uphold modern environmental standards.

The Drin river, the longest in Albania, snakes throughout the country and provides a crucial source of water for people in FYR Macedonia and Montenegro as well.

On the Albanian side, the Drin is used for irrigation, fishing and most importantly to generate electricity. Three major dams were constructed along the river to help generate hydropower.

But according to an EU-commissioned study called CLIWASEC(Climate Change Impacts on Water and Security), the Drins dams have also become a source of problems between Albania and its neighboring countries a conflict that is expected to intensify in the coming years as global warming gather pace.

The countries on the Balkan peninsula will in future have to cope all year round with warmer temperatures and significantly less precipitation. At the same time, the threat of floods looms especially in early spring. Thats what happened in early 2012.

Source: bne


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