Board of Executive Directors
The World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20433
October 19, 2007
CALL TO THE WORLD BANK’S BOARD OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS TO CANCEL THE VLORA THERMO POWER PLANT PROJECT IN ALBANIA
We, the representatives of international civil society organizations, call on the World Bank to cancel its support for a controversial power plant project at the Treport Beach in Albanian Vlora, due to major questions about the selection of the site and potential adverse impacts of the plant’s operations on the environment.
We remind the Board of Executive Directors that the relevant International Development Association’s loan financing of the project is based upon a flagrant material misrepresentation of the location of the planned power plant.
At time of the approval of the project, the site was described wrongly to the Board of Executive Directors as “a six hectare green field site adjacent to the offshore oil tanker terminal located on the Adriatic coast north of the Port of Vlore […] The site is situated on a relatively barren coastal area with little vegetation or wildlife […] ”1 In fact, the site is a very delicate Mediterranean beach, with a thick forest of pine trees, with sand dunes and endangered habitat, and is adjacent to a fishing harbour.
As the official communication documents, the pristine project site formerly included within the Narta Lagoon protected area was deprived of its protected status upon the intervention of the Albanian Minister of Industry and Energy to enable the construction of the thermo power plant.2
Due to its unique sandy character on the otherwise rocky coastline of the Vlora Bay, the beach is a popular recreational spot for Vlora inhabitants as well as for tourists. Any industrial construction on the site will irreversibly destroy Vlora’s tourism potential and hurt the emerging private tourist enterprise.
The proximity of the project to the Ramsar Convention protected Narta lagoon and wetlands poses pollution risks for this unique biotope. Any harm to the fragile lagoon ecology might in turn harm the subsistence fishing and small salt industry in the area.
Moreover, the project location is an important cultural and historical heritage site. Treport and Kavallona host ancient Greek-Roman ruins dating to the Byzantine Empire and the beginning of the First Crusade. The site is also considered to be the landing place of the Sephardic Jews escaping from the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.
Lastly, we remain concerned about the cumulative impacts of the planned industry and energy projects on the environment and waters of the Vlora Bay. Parallel to the ongoing construction of the Vlora thermo power plant, the construction of the La Petrolifera Italo-Rumena hydrocarbons terminal is taking place in the same area. Moreover, the site should host the AMBO pipeline outlet and related infrastructure. Despite these massive construction plans, no strategic impact assessment has been carried out to evaluate the potential environmental and social effects of the complex.
We understand the World Bank’s Inspection Panel is conducting a full and thorough investigation on this matter and we appreciate the July 18 decision of the Board to authorise such an investigation.
However, we are rather puzzled that in obvious defiance of such an investigation the Bank has disbursed the loan thus allowing for the construction at the site to begin as it did on August 27. As a result, severe damage has already been done to the location by deforestation and removal of sand dunes, while the investigation of the Inspection Panel has yet to complete.
Moreover, on 31 July 2007 the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee found violations of Article 6 of the Convention due to the fact that there had been no public participation during the site selection process and the EIA process.
We believe that with its apparent intention to go forward with the project, the World Bank management is placing the Inspection Panel and the Board before a fait accompli, ignoring international environmental law by financing a project that violates such a body of law, and causing great and potentially irreversible harm to this historical and pristine beach in the Mediterranean.
We recognise the urgent need for increased energy supply in Albania. However, the current energy shortages are no justification to build an oil-based, combined cycle power plant associated with high social and environmental risks. We believe that other better alternatives were – and still are – feasible inland.
Therefore, a suspension of the loan disbursement, the halting of construction and the cancellation of the project is the only way forward for the management of the World Bank to ensure compliance with its own mission, guiding principles and by-laws.
In view of the highly problematic circumstances outlined above, we call on the Board of Executive Directors to act promptly and decisively on this issue of major importance.
Thank you for your attention to these issues. We look forward to your reply.
Dimitris Fanariotis, EcoCorfu
Address: Nr. 15, Plateia Iroon Kypriakoy Agona, Square, .c 49100
tel. 00302661037761, 00306938712638