Nick St.Oegger

Photographer
   
The Lament of the Mountains
Location: Tirana, Albania
Biography: My journey as a storyteller was inspired by childhood trips with my mountaineer grandfather, who introduced me to the wonders of the natural world, while sharing tales of the people and places from his adventurous life. He sparked in me a... MORE
Public Story
The Lament of the Mountains
Copyright Nick St.Oegger 2022
Updated Jul 2022
Location Albania
Topics Aerial, Climate Change, Conservation, Culture, Culture stories, Documentary, Editorial, Environment, Landscape, Photojournalism, Portraiture





As the impact of climate change pushes countries to invest in renewable energy, southeastern Europe has seen a surge in hydropower development, with close to 3000 dams planned or under construction in the Balkan peninsula. Scientists and activists have raised concerns about the environmental impact of this seemingly unchecked hydropower boom on the region’s largely pristine waterways, the so called "Blue Heart of Europe".

In the mountains of northern Albania, the impact of dams threatens to clash not just with nature, but also with a unique culture. Here in the Kelmend valley, the highland Malësorë people are some of Europe’s last true pastoralist shepherds, migrating with their flocks between high alpine pastures in the summer, and lower valleys during the winter months. While this process of transhumance has received UNESCO recognition and protection in countries like Italy, Greece and Austria, where the practice draws tourists and spectators, in Albania it holds no such status. The Malësorë shepherds brave challenging year round conditions in a difficult terrain in order to eke out a living as they have for generations.
 
Now as Albania receives energy subsidies and loans from Western banks, dozens of “small scale” dams are being planned along the region’s alpine rivers, without public consultation and with little potential for contributing meaningfully to the country’s energy supply. These dams, along with changing weather patterns, pose an existential threat to the rich natural resources and biodiversity of the Kelmend region, and with it, the lifestyle of those who have inhabited the area for centuries.  
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The Lament of the Mountains by Nick St.Oegger
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