International Symposium on Wild Rivers – Tirana

International Symposium on Wild Rivers – Tirana

On October 18 and 19 a group of scientists, NGOs, and local stakeholders met to discuss and share knowledge on the importance of wild rivers. What better spot to meet than Albania, home of the Vjosa, the Queen of European Wild Rivers?!

My presentation about River Intellectuals and the importance of collaborations to protect Wild Rivers

During the first day, we listened to presentations by world-renown scientists, in the capital city of Tirana. After getting insights into the value of wild rivers on a global perspective, learning about the importance of wild rivers to sustain life-important hydro-biogeochemical cycles from Prof. Gilles Pinay (IRSTEA, France), and the experiences in protecting and restoring rivers in Japan by Prof. Futoshi Nakamura (Hokkaido University, Japan), we entered a more regional perspective. We listened about the importance of the Balkan region as a biodiversity hotspot of global importance, and about the challenges that the rivers in this region are facing, which are mainly (but not limited to) caused by a maniac hydropower development. 

Also local band Alban Nimani agrees with us: The Vjosa needs to be saved!

During presentations, we learned about morphological dynamics in Balkan wild rivers from Prof. Guido Zolezzi (University of Trento, Italy), about the many endemic fish species in the regions from Prof. Steven Weiss (University of Graz, Austria), and about environmental pressures and challenges from Prof. Nikolaos Skoulikides (HCMR, Greece).

Getting ready to enjoy the Vjosa!

To help us further appreciate the Vjosa River, we had the chance to experience it first hand the following day. Did you know that many of the beautiful Albanian beaches would disappear if the Vjosa wouldn’t constantly replenish them with fresh sand? Or that many insects and fish that have already disappeared in the rest of Europe still thrive here? And that all of this beauty is threatened by the construction of huge dams and reservoirs, that would anyway fill-up with sediment in a few decades, and are therefore completely non-sensical even from a merely economical point of view?! These and many more questions were discussed and answered.

Amazing landscape and great company on the river!

Check out the following link if you want to find more about the Vjosa and the values of Wild Rivers, which were presented in Tirana:

And of course, we were also there to enjoy discussions, state the importance of collaboration between science and local actors to protect rivers, and enjoy the natural flows of the Vjosa!

-David Faro

Not all Vjosa sights are nice: one of the planned dams on the river

All photos by Anna Schöpfer