After the Kosovar Minister for Environment verbally attacked activist Shpresa Loshaj and presented Riverwatch's role in a skewed way in a recent interview about the Kelkos case in the TV Program “Rubikon” on November 25th, we felt compelled to rectify our position in an open letter to the Minister:
Subject: Open Letter to Minister Liburn Aliu
Dear Minister Liburn Aliu,
In your recent interview about the Kelkos case in the TV Program “Rubikon” on November 25th, you mention Riverwatch several times and I am concerned that viewers might have gotten a slightly wrong idea of Riverwatch’s role and positions.
Therefore, I would like to clarify a few points once again. Maybe I wasn´t clear enough in my earlier statement from November 23rd.
- In your TV interview from November 25th, you stated that the expertise about Zalli I Rupes comes from Riverwatch, rather than from Kelkos. That´s not the case. As a matter of fact, it is a report by Kelkos. As clarified in our press release from November 23nd, we only recommended the expert, but the expert was contracted, paid and guided by Kelkos.
- This document about Zalli I Rupes needs to be discussed and consulted with local communities and the affected people. In this consultation process, the need for adaptations might arise, which must be included in the final restoration plan.
- The solution for Zalli I Rupes is only one puzzle stone out of many that have to be clarified in this valley.
- Thus, I would like to repeat my suggestions from November 23nd in regards to the next steps and a way out of the current situation:
- Identify the crucial ecological and social aspects in need to be solved in the valley (ecological flow, fish passages, compensation measures, drinking water supply…)
- Commission independent experts to develop concepts for solving these problems
- Consult local communities and affected people about these assessments. It is crucial to carry out the consultation before finalizing the report. Otherwise, it would only be an “information” rather than a “consultation” and that would not be in line with international standards.
- Indeed, there are also other areas in Kosovo that need attention, like the area near Strpce. Kosovo is facing a dam tsunami with severe ecological and social consequences. We have evidence of about 97 hydropower projects that are either planned or under construction in the country. To make this problem visible and to discuss solutions, I suggest a “Kosovo River Summit” in early 2022, with representatives of all stakeholder groups (including NGOs and affected communities), organized by your ministry.
Dear Minister Aliu, let me assure you that Riverwatch is still willing to support this process, but only within the concept frame outlined above, led and commissioned by your ministry.
Last not least, I want to point out, that I highly value the work of Shpresa Loshaj, Pishtaret and other activists in your country. Without their hard work, their passion and commitment, the problems and grievances like in the Lumbardhi valley wouldn´t be visible. Most likely, there wouldn´t even be a court decision. We need brave people like her and others to make a change for the better. Therefore, we in Riverwatch hope to continue our work with them in the future.