The Albanian Banja Hydro-Power plant is almost finished, but some villagers forced to abandon their homes in the project’s wake lament unfair treatment and meager compensation for their property.
|Rrahime Çarçiu, 72, built her house with the help of her migrant son | Photo: Bardha Nergjoni.
Like many Albanians in poor rural areas, Rrahime Çarçiu, 72, built her house with money her son earned working abroad.
After spending her long life in the remote village of Driza, situated in the mountainous region of Gramshi, she is still undecided about where her next home will be, even though her current house is soon to be inundated by the rising waters of the country’s newest man-made lake.
“This is all what I have. I don’t want to leave,” she told BIRN.
Her house sits within Devolli Lake, the future reservoir of the Banja hydropower plant, which is part of a 535 million euro project to construct three hydropower plants (HPP) in Albania.
Construction on the Banja HPP first began in the 1980s, but the project was abandoned when the Communist government of Albania went bankrupt in 1991. The project was resurrected in 2009 when Norwegian company Statkraft received a 35-year concessionary agreement to build and operate the plant.
After seven years of work, the company closed the dam gates for the first time at Banja earlier this year and started filling the reservoir. Concurrently, the company is constructing roads to replace the current infrastructure disappearing under the water.
The reservoir is expected to reach an elevation of 175 meters above sea level and start producing electricity this summer. Banja alone will have an installed capacity of 56 MW and will produce 250 GWH annually. When fully operational, the project is expected to increase the country’s electricity production by nearly 17 percent.