On May 24th, 2018, the Valbona River ‘travelled’ to Tirana’s Skanderbeg Square, to “protest” against the hydropower constructions threatening 30km of its length. Under attack by a proposed 14 hydropower plants – three of which are already under construction – the Valbona River is the heart of Northern Albania’s Valbona Valley National Park.
Contemporary artist Klod Dedja’s concept for the sound and visual installation transferred the river symbolically and holographically from the National Park into Skanderbeg Square, to the centre of Albania’s capital. The installation consisted of flow projections as a video frame, composed of many video image artilleries. The surround sound system reproduced the original sound of the river. The symbolic V for Valbona monument, placed at the centre of the square was covered in blue siren alarms portraying the urgency to act to save the river and National Park.
The project was coordinated by Andi Tepelena (representative of the independent cultural scene in Albania), Adelina Stuparu, and the NGO TOKA from Valbona. The project was made possible with financial support from Berlin-based Guerrilla Foundation, Lush UK, Heinrich Boell Foundation (Sarajevo Office), and many donors from the Netherlands who contribute financially to small grants administered by the Het Actiefonds Foundation.
The concept of the river itself ‘flooding’ the square in protest is preceded by protests organised in Valbona and Tirana to stop the construction of hydropower in the National Park and the legal actions of local communities. It was only 10 years ago that the mountain villages in the park opened their isolated community to the world, and The Valbona Valley National Park is now considered to be one of the best outdoors destinations in Europe.
There is a lot at stake, and scientists confirm their concerns. A recent study revealed that 49 European freshwater species would either become extinct or lose 50 to 100% of their Balkan distribution due to cumulative hydropower projects in the region. The proliferation of hydropower should additionally consider climate change: South East Europe faced severe droughts last year, resulting in energy crises, due to lack of water resources which stalked electricity production at hydropower plants. Yet, the number of small hydropower plants are constantly increasing, despite risks.
The river protest was an appeal to decision-makers to halt construction of hydropower plants in the National Park, to allow the legal appeals to proceed, to protect the river, the unique ecosystem it supports and the local community that lives within the park.
The Installation Project in the Media