Conservationists: new airport gravely harms Albania wetland

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En esta imagen del sbado 2 de mayo de 2020, flamencos volando en la laguna de Narta, unos 140 kilmetros (90 millas) al suroeste de la capital albana, Tirana. (AP Foto/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA – Conservationist groups urged the Albanian government on Tuesday to rescind a decision to build a airport they say would seriously damage the country’s western wetlands.

A coalition of 37 Albanian and international organizations on said the construction of the airport near the protected area of Vjose-Narta ”would irreversibly damage its eco-system sheltering many birds.”

The government has launched an international tender to build the 86 million euro ($104 million) airport in Vlora, 140 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the capital Tirana.

“Such an investment would bring about uncontrolled and unsustainable development models that would irreversibly damage the natural values and resources of the area,” the coalition of organizations said in a statement.

The Narta lagoon and its surroundings comprising more than 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) represent one of the largest and most important wetland ecosystems in the Mediterranean, recognized as a key biodiversity area with more than 200 bird species such as pelicans, herons, gulls and flamingos.

According to local officials and area residents, a relative calm that descended over the the area as a result coronavirus restrictions saw the flamingo population at Narta Lagoon increase to about 3,000, indicating that the lagoon could be a viable breeding ground for the birds.

The organizations said such construction violates a number of conventions ratified by Albania.

They also appealed directly to Prime Minister Edi Rama - who has roots in Vlore - to shut down the airport's construction because it would destroy the landscape and dislocate many animal species.

The conservationist groups also warned of airplanes potentially sustaining bird strikes with “tragic consequences" because of the large number of fowl there.