• Business Business

Multibillion-dollar plan to build luxury resorts threatens natural coastal area: 'This jewel is at risk of being lost forever'

The tourist development will wipe out thousands of acres of natural land, destroying the area's rich biodiversity.

The tourist development will wipe out thousands of acres of natural land, destroying the area's rich biodiversity.

Photo Credit: iStock

A massive area of pristine land known for its incredible biodiversity — an "oasis for nature," as Inside Climate News called it — is under threat of being demolished for development into a tourist destination. 

What's happening? 

Albania's Vjosë River feeds into a 59,000-acre delta that features a 10,000-acre lagoon. The delta was largely untouched by humans and is considered the largest and most pristine river delta along the Mediterranean. According to Inside Climate News, that could change thanks to the Albanian government and outside investors, including former senior White House advisor Jared Kushner. 

The Albanian government is paving the way for the area's development by constructing an international airport close to the lagoon. The airport is just the first step in the European country's goal of turning the area into the "Albanian Riviera," lined with five-star resorts, per Inside Climate News. 

Kushner's company, Affinity Partners, is one of the groups heavily invested in the area's future. Its investment pot is $3.1 billion, much of which comes from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. Kushner is reportedly focused on the uninhabited Sazan island and the Zvërnec peninsula, hoping to add several resorts with up to 10,000 hotel rooms and villas. 

Why the plans are concerning

"These developments are highly alarming, and we are strongly concerned about losing the last natural coastal areas in the Mediterranean," said Annette Spangenberg, head of conservation at environmental NGO EuroNatur, per Inside Climate News.

The tourist development will wipe out thousands of acres of natural land, destroying the area's rich biodiversity, the news outlet reported. The Nartë lagoon is also a major migration stop between Europe and Africa for birds. It's an important breeding and feeding ground for birds like Dalmatian pelicans, flamingos, and spoonbills. 

"This jewel is at risk of being lost forever," warns global NGO Birdlife International.

What is being done to protect the Vjosë delta? 

The Vjosë River, which feeds into the delta, is one of the last undammed rivers in Europe outside Russia, running freely for around 170 miles. 

"Its survival as an undammed river is largely thanks to international campaigners who have for the past decade successfully prevented the Albanian government from building large hydroelectric dams in its upper reaches," Yale Environment 360 journalist Fred Pearce wrote in the article for Inside Climate News. 

The international pressure prompted the Albanian government to shut down any development in the newly created Vjosë Wild River National Park, sometimes spelled as Vjosa. However, the protections only cover the river, not the delta. 

According to Inside Climate News, the Sazan island and Zvërnec peninsula — where Kushner's company is looking to develop — are protected areas, but the Albanian parliament recently changed a law to override existing protection laws. 

EuroNatur and Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania are two of the conservation groups fighting to protect the delta and taking the government to court over the issue. 

"The president [former military chief Bajram Begaj] ratified the law just three days after the Kushner plans became public," said PPNEA's pelican conservation coordinator, Zydjon Vorpsi. "We are in no doubt that the two are connected."

What can I do to help preserve natural areas? 

Donating money to organizations like PPNEA is a great way to support preservation efforts. Even if you don't live in Albania, what's happening there is a good reminder to vote for pro-climate candidates to ensure that your government is working to protect these vital areas instead of exploiting them. 

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider