Tirana – On 25 January 2017 a public event in the Albanian capital saw the "Institutional Support for the management of protected areas in Albania" project conclude, which, over the course of five years, has contributed to a significant improvement in Albanian biodiversity protection. Funded by the Italian Co-operation, and put in place by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with the Albanian Ministry of Environment and the Agency of Protected Areas (AAP), the project has contributed to the definition of a new institutional framework for the management of the Albanian environment, catalysing changes in legislation and offering a decisive push towards the effective management of the protected areas of the country.
“In recent years we have worked hard to strengthen the system of protected areas in Albania and collaboration with AICS and IUCN has been one of the major supports that we received,” said Zamir Dedej, director of AAP. “We will continue to build synergies and to explore the potential of protected areas to generate revenue without compromising the preservation of their natural heritage.”
The project has helped to strengthen the management of protected areas by introducing, in line with modern international standards, the concept of a systemic approach to their management. The field activities were mainly carried out in two pilot areas: the protected landscape of the river Buna (BRPL) and the Shebenik-Jabllanicë national park (SJNP), selected on the basis of their importance in terms of biodiversity and the important ecosystem services they provide to the community. Management plans for these areas were prepared and, for the first time in Albania, a participatory process put in place involving all communities and local actors, as stipulated in the guidelines of the World Commission on Protected Areas IUCN.
“Albania is investing heavily in the creation of an effective system of protected areas. In these five years we have witnessed a great leap forward in the institutional framework and management of protected areas in Albania. IUCN will continue to give its technical support to the inhabitants and to the Albanian authorities responsible for the conservation of the protected areas in the country,” said Boris Erg, Director of IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Among the major contributions of the project one can highlight:
- The introduction of a standard procedure for the preparation of the management plans;
- The development of two management plans implemented in line with international standards,
- The opening of two visitor centres and the construction of other "green" facilities as places for wildlife watching, hiking and cycling, which have begun to catalyse the development of ecotourism in both parks;
- The introduction of techniques, technical tools, equipment and training of local technical staff for the planning and monitoring of protected areas;
- The creation of BioNNA, the national database on Albanian biodiversity;
- The creation of several awareness campaigns and educational programs for schools, aimed at increasing the support of local communities in these protected areas;
- The launch of a new App for smartphones offering users information about the protected areas of the country and ecotourism opportunities.
"Italy has long established constructive relations of co-operation with Albania, and will continue to support its development and its efforts to conserve the environment - said Nino Merola, director of AICS field office in Albania. - Through another initiative already in place, the NaturAl project which was co-funded by the European Union, but also through other initiatives as well, we will continue in our efforts to support Albania to entering Natura 2000, the network of European protected areas."