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Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Agency Has Amibitious Plans For Albanian Coast

NEWS19 FEB 14

The head of a new agency tasked with protecting Albania’s coastline, Auron Tare, told Balkan Insight that he plans to save what remains of the unspoiled shore from abusive development.

Besar Likmeta

Albania’s 360-kilometre coast has seen its share of wildcat and anarchic development in the last two decades, which have turned once pristine areas into seaside urban ghettos, where concrete condos, restaurants and hotels vie for space.
However, much of the coastline, from the Ionian Sea and the rocky beaches of the Riviera in the south to the sandy shores of the Adriatic in the north, remains unspoiled, still capturing the imagination of travel writers as a version of the Mediterranean as it once was.
The new centre-left government of Edi Rama has promised to turn the tide on developing coastal areas in a sustainable direction by safeguarding the environment and local vernacular architecture.   
To turn its promises into action, Rama has created the National Coastal Agency, headed by heritage activists and former Socialist MP Auron Tare.  
Tare told Balkan Insight that the goal is to coordinate efforts between local and central government, local communities and civil society in order to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated.
“Albania ranks last among Mediterranean countries when it comes to the benefits that come from tourism to its economy, with little or no visits from cruise ships and few yacht marinas,” Tare said.
“Although parts of the coast have been destroyed, it still has the chance to apply a new philosophy on how to develop coastal areas, away from what is termed 'abusive' tourism toward a more sustainable model,” he added.
Tare says such a sustainable model would do away with the high-rises and condos that now litter Albania’s beaches, preserving the traditional architecture of coastal villages.    
“The idea behind this agency is to bring in and apply all good international practices in terms of integrated coastal management, by coordinating all the chain of possible economic activities in this area in harmony with nature,” he said.
“Although this might sound like propaganda, I believe with the right model we can change the economic factors of coastal areas and raise the living standards of its inhabitants,” Tare added.
In 2014, the agency will open up five offices in coastal areas, concentrated in small town and villages. It plans to work in cooperation with local business to create a lifeguard system and install the Blue Flag programme for local beaches.
The Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label that has been awarded to more than 3,850 beaches and marinas in 48 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.
The programme works towards the sustainable development of beaches and marinas through applying strict criteria on water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, safety and other services.
Tare admits that his agency has few funds, and the challenges are not small, but believes that if they can gain people’s trust, donors and the government will step up their support.
“My past experience has taught me that small and concrete actions on the ground can change people’s perceptions and shake bureaucracy,” he concluded.

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