MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region
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Albanian Project Document
Narta/Karabarun, Vlora District
September 1999, by Web Team

This project is the Albanian component of a Mediterranean regional initiative involving Albania, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia. The overall initiative is aimed at ensuring the sustainable management the biological diversity of the coastal areas and wetlands in 6 Mediterranean countries/Authority through the development of adequate legal and regulatory frameworks, the creation of institutional organizations adapted to the complexity of the issues at stake, capacity-building and the development of an exchange network at the regional level both to achieve economies of scale and to save time when implementing and replicating the innovating actions undertaken.

The objective of the project is to create or enhance the exchange structures and fora concerned with this general management:
-  By establishing interministerial coordination mechanisms for projects undertaken at the local and national levels;
-  By developing demonstration activities at the most significant sites;
-  By awareness-raising, training and networking of the population groups and the social and economic actors and establishing linkages between them around the Mediterranean basin.

Regionality of project

The main objective of this project is to build capacity in the participating countries in the Mediterranean region to conserve threatened, globally significant biodiversity in coastal and wetland eco-systems within the framework of sustainable coastal development. The project therefore aims at «closing the Mediterranean circle», in terms of wetland and coastal conservation initiative. The project will ensure that lessons learned and experiences made in the northern rim of the Mediterranean can be effectively transferred and, where applicable, applied and/or adapted to the prevailing circumstances in the participating countries. The regionality of the project provides a greater cost effectiveness and effectiveness for such information and experience transfers both on a north-south basis as well as on a south-south basis.

For the purposes of this project, eligible wetlands, primarily of lagoon type, are those whose flows are interconnected with the Mediterranean Sea, while coastal areas are the terrestrial components of the coastal zone in the vicinity, and under the influence of the Mediterranean Sea. The project does therefore not address navigational and marine pollution issues and nor marine biodiversity. These are presently covered by other existing and planned programmes, in particular under MAP/UNEP (GEF PDF B: Formulation of a strategic action programme for the Mediterranean Sea to address pollution from land-based activities).

This proposal addresses conservation of globally threatened biodiversity in 16 important wetland and coastal sites in five Mediterranean countries and in the Palestinian Authority. Through a combination of innovative land-use and wetland policies at national level, site protection and management at local level and regional networking and exchange of experience the proposal will provide a biodiversity protection increment to other brown programme addressing pollution and water resource issues in the beneficiary countries/authority. At site level mechanisms for taking account of local concerns and ensuring local participation and economic returns are built into the project from the outset.

The Mediterranean region has seen the rise and fall of many empires over the last 2500 years. Numerous invasions and commercial links, many of them by sea, have seen eastern traders found cities in the western basin, Catalan influence extend as fax as Greece, and Arabic culture penetrate well into the Iberian peninsula. These fluxes, together with the enclosed nature of the sea, have led to the establishment of a common Mediterranean identity and culture. This identity is reinforced by the circum-Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and rainy winters, which is also responsible for the development of ecosystems characteristic of the region.

The Mediterranean coastline (26,000 km) is an area of high biodiversity, where more than 50% of the 25,000 plant species are endemic to the region. It is also a critical area for migratory birds in the Africa-Palearctic flyway as wetlands in the region provide an essential flyway stepping stone on either side of the Mediterranean Sea and between the sea and the vast expanse of the Sahara desert to the south.

The major threats to the exceptional biodiversity of these wetland and coastal ecosystems related to uncontrolled development, urbanization, increasing national and international tourism, land-based pollution, and unplanned or over-exploitation of natural resources, in particular freshwater.

Aware of their common heritage, the Mediterranean States and European Union have developed common programmes and policies for the sustainable development and conservation of the coast since 1975. The Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP Regional Seas Programme), the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development, METAP, LIFE, MedWet, Natura 2000 and MEDA (EU) are some of these regional initiatives.

The MedWet programme for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands originated from the Grado Conference (Italy, 1991). The initiative was recently widened (Venice, 1996) where all the riparian States present endorsed a common strategy for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands. In parallel, the Mediterranean Action Plan, Conservatoire du Littoral (France) and Ramsar Convention secretariat held a joint technical meeting on coastal zone management (Hyeres, 1995) where 12 countries agreed on the need to develop land use policies for effective management of the coastal zone..Today, the States of the Mediterranean region are at different stages of economic and institutional development and therefore differ in their capacity to address biodiversity issues within the context of sustainable development. Incremental funding is required to allow them to implement agreed regional policies in the field.

The overall GEF-funded Wetlands and Coastal project includes six countries/authorities, namely Albania, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority.

Country profile

Albania rejoined the international community in 1991 after 45 years of isolation. The political system, which insisted on self-sufficiency, a totally centralised economy and the lack of contact with neighbouring countries, was transformed into a democratic country resuming its place in the Adriatic and Mediterranean community.

Part of the Balkan region, Albania is a relatively small country Most of the country is mountainous, rising to 2700 m, and 41 % of the 3.3 million population lives on the extensive coastal plain. The population has doubled over the last thirty years and there is substantial migration towards the cities of the coastal zone. Albania sits at the interface between the mountainous Balkans, a continental European climate and the Mediterranean region. Despite the small area of the country, its rich biodiversity includes 3200 species of plant and the natural values of the country has been little affected by excessive coastal development, as has been the case in many other countries. Rainfall on the coast is between 950 - 1200 mm annually, making water resources generally abundant and the country has a water resource use index of only 10- 15%.

The principal economic activities under the previous regime were mineral extraction, agriculture and basic industry. Sewage collection and treatment plants are currently being planned by the Albanian authorities but little provision currently exists for treating industrial and domestic effluent.Since the liberalisation of the economy, a range of government policies have been implemented to return collectivised land to its original owners and to promote the emergence of private initiatives. This has included designation of sites for tourism development along the coast.

The soils of the hinterland are extremely susceptible to erosion and the combination of high sediment flows along with a series of dams on major rivers means that the coastal zone is geomorphologically dynamic. Accreting in some places, eroding in others, the historical trend is towards accretion, and villages such as Lezha in the north, which are recorded as being by the sea in Roman times are now up to 5 km inland.

The high sediment loads and erosive maritime forces also strongly influence water quality, and it is evident that despite the high quality of some of the beaches, their potential for international tourism development is hampered by a lack of clean transparent "Mediterranean blue" water, especially in the centre and north of the country. Along the coastal zone, a range of key natural habitats exist, ranging from rocky coastal areas with cliffs and caves in the south, to sandy dune-based ecosystems and deltas in the centre and north.

Historically, wetlands covered some 70 000 ha, however, land reclamation aimed at recovering agricultrual land, and reducing malaria, have drained 15 000 ha, mostly along the coastal plain. The four remaining coastal wetland complexes considered of national or international importance include the lagoons at Lezha (Ceka and Merxhani), Karavastas, Narta and Butrinti.

Albanian Project Document
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