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A new, multimillion-euro international airport near Albania’s coastal city of Vlora will mean hundreds of jobs for area residents. But environmentalists warn it could cause irreparable damage to the fragile ecosystems of protected lagoons that host flamingos, pelicans and millions of other migratory birds.
Albania’s new, 104 million-euro ($125 million) international airport — the country’s third — is currently being constructed at the Narta Lagoon some 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the city of Vlora. Set to start operations in 2025, the airport will boast a 3.2-kilometer (2-mile) runway and is expected to handle up to 2 million passengers a year.
That’s good news for Adriatik Sela, a resident of Akerni village. The unemployed man hopes that “if there is business here, I could sell a cigarette package, or a coffee, or work as a guard.” He and others among the village’s 1,000-strong population see the airport as an opportunity for a better life.
But Aleksander Trajce from the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA), says the airport poses a grave threat to the Narta Lagoon and the Karavasta Lagoon farther north and environmentalists have launched a court battle to stop its construction.
Millions of migratory birds use the lagoons as a rest stop as part of the Adriatic flyway, a route the birds use to travel from central and northern Europe to Africa. Up to 3,000 flamingos and pelicans visit the lagoons each year.
Niko Dumani, from the non-governmental group Natural Environment Preservation and Protection Vlora, accuses the government of changing a pre-approved plan delineating a protected zone to incorporate a part of the lagoon into the airport’s construction plans.
Annette Spangenberg, from the German-based conservation group EuroNatur, said the Narta Lagoon is part of an ecological network of conservation areas aiming at the long-term survival of bird species and their habitats.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.