Controversial airport progresses in Albania

By Mike Hayes31 January 2023

The construction of an airport on the outskirts of a protected area in southern Albania is moving ahead, despite protests from environmentalists and condemnation from the European Union (EU).

An impression of the proposed Vlora International Airport in Albania. Image: Mabatex International

Vlora Airport will be located on the Vjose-Narta Lagoon, currently a sanctuary for some 200 species of birds, including flamingos and pelicans.

The Albanian government is pressing ahead with construction, following the rejection of a legal claim filed by local NGOs, on environmental grounds.

The government, which is investing approximately €104 million into phase one of the project, said it anticipates significant growth in tourism numbers, following the airport’s completion.

Flamingos seen in the Vjosa-Narta Protected Area in Albania. Image: Reuters

Environmentalists say the airport is not only endangering birds, but could also jeopardise air passenger safety, with the potential for large birds to collide with incoming and outgoing aircraft.

Swiss firm Mabatex, which is leading on the project, said the flight paths of the planes would not affect bird populations, with runways set some 3.5km from the bird sanctuary.

The EU has said, however, that the airport, which is due for completion in 2024, is progressing in clear violation of national and international laws on the protection of biodiversity.

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