On a continent where most rivers are dammed at some point along their route, the Vjosa is a rarity. Fast, free flowing and pollution-free, it runs unimpeded for 170 miles across Albania to the Adriatic Sea. They call it Europe’s ‘last wild river’.
Happily, the Albanian government has just vowed to keep it that way. It committed to protecting the Vjosa and its tributaries by creating Europe’s first wild river national park. That's also good news for campaign groups who have been calling for such a designation for years.
The new designation should safeguard the river and its tributaries from the kind of development many feared would impact this wild Utopia, particularly as dams had been mooted for the region.
“Albania’s Vjosa is nature’s unrelenting force, the only survivor of the wild rivers of our continent,” said Albanian prime minister Edi Rama. “Under the protective cloak of the national park, Vjosa will stay intact for Albania, for Europe, for the planet we want for our children’s children.”
Help protecting the river will come from an unlikely source: the outdoor clothing company, Patagonia. It has agreed to assist in creating the national park. Patagonia has a long history of supporting environmental causes. Kristine Tompkins, former chief executive of the clothing brand and her husband Doug (founder of another clothing behemoth: North Face), personally donated 1 million acres of pristine wilderness to Chile in 2017. This is said to be the largest land transfer in history from a private entity to a government.
Dam Busters - Restoring Europe's Rivers: At least 239 barriers, including dams and weirs, were removed across 17 countries in Europe in 2021, in a record-breaking year for dam removals across the continent.