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Albania court halts power plant construction in scenic park

Albania court halts power plant construction in scenic park

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian campaigners gave a cautious welcome Thursday to a Supreme Court ruling that halted construction of two hydroelectric power plants in a protected nature area.

The court decision published Wednesday said construction must be suspended pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought by local residents and a non-governmental organization called Toka who want to stop the project.

The power plants are planned for the Valbona Valley National Park, in the Albanian Alps, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the capital, Tirana.

“With the reactions we’ve seen, the excitement and positivity, with everybody happy about this, all these give a clear message to the government that the law is upheld,” Catherine Bohne of the Toka (Earth) organization, which filed the lawsuit against the Energy Ministry in 2017, told the Associated Press.

The government granted an Albanian company the concession to build the power stations in 2009, despite an outcry from locals.

Bohne noted that a court’s interim decision in 2018 to suspend work was not respected by the company. “It’s the first step in getting them (the company) removed. But there is still work to be done,” she said.

Albania's coastline and numerous mountainous parks have suffered damage during the last three decades of post-communist government due to illegal construction or logging.