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New Environmental Performance Review calls on Albania to put waste dumpsites in order, look beyond hydropower, upgrade railways and dispose of polluting cars

Published: 12 September 2018

Municipal waste, rural water supply and sanitation and wastewater treatment are some of the most pressing environmental challenges in Albania. Tourism development, abandoned industrial sites and energy sector investments mean environmental risks but also represent strategic opportunities for green development. These are the main findings of the third Environmental Performance Review (EPR) of Albania undertaken by UNECE.

The Review was launched in Tirana on 12 September 2018. It equips the Government of Albania with recommendations to inspire future work to achieve the globally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals and implement the country’s climate change commitments, within the process of accession to the European Union.

The Review highlights improvements in the state of the environment in Albania. Air quality improved greatly over the past decade. Since 2005, emissions of sulphur oxides decreased by some 35 per cent and emissions of ammonia by around 10 per cent, while emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter 10 µm or less in diameter (PM10) increased slightly. Albania reduced the use of fossil fuels in energy production and industrial processes. It also introduced European Union standards for fuel quality.

Albania now has a total of 800 protected areas (natural monuments included) covering 16.61 per cent of the whole national territory –a significant increase from 3.6 per cent in 2002. The institutional framework for the management of protected sites has improved with the creation of the National Agency of Protected Areas in 2015. The new Law on Protected Areas, adopted in 2017, paves the way for using the revenues generated by national parks for their development and afforestation.

The Government has taken a drastic approach to combat illegal hunting and logging. In 2014, Albania declared a hunting moratorium and in June 2016 extended this moratorium for the next five years. Due to the large loss of forest cover over the past 25 years (by an estimated 20 per cent), in early 2016 the Government imposed a 10-year moratorium on logging, with the exception of fuelwood used by local communities. These measures are already bearing fruit.

Albania achieved significant progress in the adoption of modern environmental legislation, with the process driven by efforts to approximate the EU acquis. However, implementation and enforcement lag behind. For example, the country has transposed the most important part of the EU directives related to waste, but still lacks the basic infrastructure for waste management. Much-needed capital investment has slowed since 2011. Separate waste collection is rarely done systematically. Recycling companies fail to acquire enough raw material from the domestic market. The Review recommends the Government to strengthen efforts towards the closure of both illegal and currently-authorised dumpsites and the construction of modern sanitary landfills. It also recommends the creation of a viable market for recyclables.

Water supply, sewerage and wastewater treatment represent another key area of concern. Water supply coverage in rural areas increased from 57 per cent in 2011 to 63 per cent in 2015, but remained constant (at about 90 per cent) in urban areas. Sewerage system coverage remained at about 51 per cent, with a significant difference in coverage between urban and rural areas. By 2016, Albania had built eight urban wastewater treatment plants, with a capacity covering around 25 per cent of the country’s urban population. However, the issue of cost recovery and limited technical capacities has rendered three of them idle. Non-revenue water is another serious challenge: on average, 67 per cent of drinking water produced is lost or not paid for.

Albania has recently made significant investments in the tourism sector. The positive trend in tourism development across the country is being confirmed as one of the most promising sources of revenue in the years to come. Such development needs to be managed carefully, avoiding harmful impacts on the landscape and environment. Promoting sustainable forms of tourism, especially in high-value natural areas and particularly protected sites, is strongly recommended by the Review.

Albania is the regional leader in the number of built and planned hydropower plants. However, no cumulative impact assessment of hydropower plants in the country, and in particular in protected areas, has been undertaken. Albania is highly dependent on hydropower as a single source of energy. The Review stresses that renewable sources of energy other than hydropower, together with connection to natural gas following the implementation of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline project, represent strategic opportunities for the country to reduce its dependence on a single source of energy, along with adopting cleaner solutions for the environment.

Albania inherited several industrial installations that operated until the early 1990s. The current objective is to attract capital to reuse such industrial buildings and establish new and greener production activities on former industrial sites. However, the plan lacks specific support in terms of both economic and fiscal incentives and technical assistance on environmental protection. The Review underscores the need to develop best practices to use the abandoned industrial sites, while ensuring their environmental rehabilitation.

Last but not least, the Review notes significant steps taken to stimulate growth in the transport sector, with a number of national investment projects in the road sector and port facilities. However, to date, not enough efforts have been directed at facilitating the development of sustainable transport. The provision of public transport, especially rail services, remains low. About 60 per cent of newly-registered cars are second-hand, meaning that more polluting cars enter the Albanian market than would otherwise occur. The Review calls for investments in the upgrading of railway facilities, the development of public transport facilities and services and adapting road and vehicle ownership taxation to ensure that owners of polluting vehicles pay higher taxes.

The third Environmental Performance Review of Albania was financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the German Federal Environment Agency with funds from the Advisory Assistance Programme. Three countries delegated their experts for the review: Hungary provided an expert on waste management; Italy seconded two experts on greening the economy; and Portugal provided two experts on international cooperation. UNEP delegated experts covering biodiversity, forestry and protected areas, and environmental monitoring and education issues. The United Nations in Albania has assisted in the organisation of the review mission.

The Review and its Highlights are available online from https://www.unece.org/index.php?id=49675  

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Antoine Nunes
Programme Manager
Environmental Performance Reviews
E-mail: antoine.nunes@un.org


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