The Vjosa: Portraits of Life on Europe's Last Wild River
In the south of Albania, the Vjosa river flows freely for 270km from its source in northern Greece to the Adriatic Sea. Considered to be one of Europe’s last wild rivers, the natural of the Vjosa supports a rich ecosystem, with plant and animal species completely unique to the region. It has also been an important economic and cultural source for communities who have lived along its banks for centuries. The Vjosa has inspired songs, poetry, legends and is even a popular name for newborn girls.
In recent years, the Vjosa has faced numerous existential threats, from plans for exploratory oil drilling, construction of an international airport in its delta, and proposed large scale hydropower dams. This has alarmed local communities and conservation groups, concerned by the potential for widespread environmental destruction, and resulting loss of cultural heritage that these projects would create. The Vjosa has become the focal point of a wider environmental movement in the Balkans, drawing in locals, activists and scientists from around the world, with the ultimate goal of creating Europe’s first Wild River National park, and providing a new framework for river conservation around Europe.
On 15th March 2023, after years of campaigning by NGOs, and with the support of American outdoor company Patagonia, the Albanian government designated the Vjosa as Europe's first Wild River National Park. This new development would see Patagonia supporting the government in defining the boundaries of the new park, ending development of destructive projects on the river, and investing in environmentally sustainable tourism projects in local communities.