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Down to Earth

Balkan dam boom: Saving the Blue Heart of Europe

Nearly 3,000 hydropower projects are planned across the Balkan Peninsula, threatening some of Europe’s most pristine ecosystems. This region is nicknamed the "Blue Heart of Europe" and is home to the continent's last wild rivers. From the Greek-Albanian border to the Adriatic Sea, the Vjosa River flows freely for 270 kilometres. While more than 30,000 dams have been built in Europe, the Vjosa remains intact - for now.

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Eight major hydropower plants are set to block the Vjosa's pristine waters, while 540 dams are planned across the country. Dams would be built at a steep environmental and human cost.

In the Vjosa valley, where locals live off olives and wheat farming, 2,000 hectares of land would be covered in water. Villages located on the river’s shorelines would disappear, flooded by dam reservoirs.

But the authorities say they need this energy to grow. The Down to Earth team travelled to Albania to find out more.

This report was produced with the support of Ecotour Albania.

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