ALONG THE VJOSA RIVER: Under a broad plane tree near Albania’s border with Greece, Jorgji Ilia fills a battered flask from one of the Vjosa River’s many springs.
“There is nothing else better than the river,” the retired schoolteacher says. “The Vjosa gives beauty to our village.”
The Vjosa is temperamental and fickle, changing from translucent cobalt blue to sludge brown to emerald green, from a steady flow to a raging torrent.
Nothing holds it back for more than 270 kilometers (170 miles) in its course through the forest-covered slopes of Greece’s Pindus mountains to Albania’s Adriatic coast.
This is one of Europe’s last wild rivers. But for how long? Albania’s government has set in motion plans to dam the Vjosa and its tributaries to generate much-needed electricity for one of Europe’s poorest countries, with the intent to build eight dams along the main river.
It’s part of a world hydropower boom, mainly in Southeast Asia, South America, Africa and less developed parts of Europe. AP