The last wild waterways of the European continent can be found in the Balkans.
But while in Europe millions are spent each year for restoring “sick” rivers back to their natural state and in the United States the government started to de-dam rivers in an effort to re-create conditions that can support local communities and wildlife, in the Balkans there is a “gold rush” mentality by what some call the “hydro-lobby” grasping for the last untapped energy market in Europe.
Approximately 570 large dams, along with hydroelectric power plants are planned for construction in the region. According to RiverWatch and Euronatur “1/4 of these untamed rivers are in pristine natural parks and protected areas”.
Deforestation, soil erosion and the irreversible changes to the corse and character of these rivers will forever change the ecosystem of the region.
One of the areas affected by these changes is the Aoos / Vjose river basin and its ecosystem.
Starting from Greece in the Pindus mountains of Epirus near the village of Vovousa the river flows through the Vikos-Aoos National Park to Konitsa before entering Albania near Carshove. From there it continues northwest passing on its way through Permet before meeting Tepelene as it makes its way to the bitumen mines of Selenice and the Ancient city of Appolonia just before meeting the Adriatic sea.
According to Ulrich Eichelmann from RiverWatch “the Aoos / Vjose river basin and its ecosystem are unique. The river and all of its tributaries are completely intact, making it an example on how to restore back the rivers in Europe.” while Professor Fritz Schiemer of the University of Vienna, during an interview with The Guardian, said that “Scientifically we know more about some rivers in the Amazon than about the Vjosa”