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The National Botanical Garden in Albania is in Danger

The National Botanical Garden of Albania, situated in the capital Tirana, was founded in 1971. It has an area of 14.5 hectares and there are around 900-950 species of plants, mainly examples of Albanian flora. It  forms part of the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Tirana and is the only garden of its kind in Albania.

Botanical_gardenScience, education and relaxation are the main functions and purposes of the Botanical Garden. It has a mission to collect and study flora in Albania and it is part of various national and international science projects. The Botanical Garden is also an educational natural laboratory which serves the students of natural sciences in Albania. Moreover it is one of the few places in Tirana where you can truly relax and it is frequently used by citizens who love plants and nature.

Despite its national value and its beauty, the Botanical Garden is currently under serious threat. Because of its location in the suburbs of a fast-growing city, it has recently faced problems because of the residential buildings constructed nearby. But even bigger is the threat caused by a larger project, the Tirana Outer Ring Road (TORR).

This project comes as a necessity for our capital city in terms of the improvement of traffic and air quality. The planned road goes around the capital and in one part of it damages 25% of the national Botanical Garden territory. This proposal was prepared in August 2010 and promoted by the General Road Directorate under the Ministry of Transport and Public Affairs.

Starting from January 2011, EDEN Center has been monitoring the project and noticed the following:
- The process is not clear and not transparent
- The Environmental Impact Assessment is not open to the public and there is no final version of it
-  An Environmental Permit has not been issued by the Regional Environmental Agency
- The affected parties, such as the Botanical Garden, was not informed until the moment that work began
- Public consultations did not happen
Despite these above mentioned points, work has already started on the ring road. And it has not begun either at the beginning or the end of the route, but right in the National Botanical Garden.

B.Garden2There has been a broad reaction against the destruction of the Botanical Garden. Albanian civil society organizations have started the campaign asking for the law to be respected by writing an open letter to the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, copied to the ministries of the sector as well as to the important international organisations currently investing in a democratic Albania which they want to see embrace European standards.

"It is important to emphasize that we are not against the construction of the Tirana Outer Ring Road itself and we think that it will positively improve the severe traffic situation and air quality in the capital city. Nevertheless the Botanical Garden is a very high price to pay. We demand other alternatives to be considered for the construction of this project" – says Anisa Xhitoni from EDEN center, one of the organizations which signed the letter to the Albanian Prime minister.

It is about the National Botanical Garden not just any green area; it is about respect of the law by the government itself and it is about protecting national values not just personal interest. All these are more than enough for the Albanian civil society organizations to continue what they started with their a letter.

EDEN center - Albania