Growing concerns among international community about revision of network of Protected Areas in Albania

Growing concerns among international community about revision of network of Protected Areas in Albania

On 26 January, the Albanian Forum of Protected Areas, hosted by the Albanian Ornithological Society, a MAW member, catalysed the concerns of national and international NGOs about the new plans to reassess the boundaries of the Albanian network of Protected Areas. Several of these areas encompass coastal areas hosting high levels of biodiversity. As opposed to the global target to protect 30% of the world by 2030, this revision could result in a 20% reduction in the surface of coastal Protected Areas in Albania. As a convening voice in the region, the Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands (MAW) joined the event to achieve better understanding of the situation and offer our support as an international community.

Recently, the Albanian government has announced plans to revise the boundaries of the protected areas
designated in 2019, compromising the protection of important areas for biodiversity, including Ramsar Sites, Emerald Sites, Important Bird Areas (IBAs), Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and Natura 2000 Pilot Areas. The first proposal of the Albanian government pointed out some sites as eligible to be downgraded, downsized or even degazetted. Following the announcement of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, 21 environmental organisations are mobilising efforts to maintain their protection status.

Since then, several commitments from the Albanian government have been achieved, besides involving the civil society community in public consultations and hearings. As a result, it has been possible to reduce the scope of the first proposal for reducing and rezoning the PA network.

The importance of including the voice of environmental NGOs in land planning strategies

Hosted in Tirana (Europe House) the Albanian Forum of Protected Areas 2023 gave voice to researchers, environmental organisations, government representatives and journalists to discuss the importance of protecting coastal wetlands and the valuable ecosystem services they provide to societies.

Representing the Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands, Lorena Segura emphasised the importance of conserving coastal wetlands as some of the world’s richest ecosystems.

Moreover, the forum offered an excellent opportunity to present the experience of the Alliance in supporting a transnational network of NGOs for protecting wetlands through the Red Alert System.
By raising the issue at an international level and connecting expertise and knowledge, the members of the Alliance support local NGOs in preserving threatened wetlands. Sofia Capellan, from Birdlife Europe and Central Asia – also MAW member – underlined the importance of many of these sites as Key Biodiversity Areas, while explaining the support that the Birdlife network can provide.

Last but not least, the Forum was a unique opportunity for the international community to address and highlight the role of Albanian protected areas in nature conservation. As explained by Besjana Shehu, AOS representative, a joint statement of the Forum dated 26.01.2022 has been published.

So far, 48 entities have signed the statement, including national and international Civil Society Organizations, academic research institutions operating in the field of nature conservation. The Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands stands by the side of Albanian civil society and actively advocating for nature conservation on an international level and offer our assistance to our Albanian partners.

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