More articles about Porto Romano, actualized 2003-01-28    

1.  World Bank Offers Hope for Porto Romano Cleanup,

     By Alban Bala for Balkan Times in Tirana - 09/12/2002

2. Illegal and dangerous: Albania's risky new real estate,

     By Colin Woodard | Special to The Christian Science Monitor, from the July 12, 2002 edition.

3. Adriatic symposium celebrates World Environment Day

     By Religion, Science and the Environment, 5th June 2002

4. Porto Romano, Shkozet - highly polluted areas

     By Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA), 99-07-28

5. Albanians threaten gunplay to close polluting factory

    By GREEN HORIZON, Environmental story ideas and tips on news to watch in Central and Eastern Europe, Dec. 16, 1998 * Volume 1 Number 15

6. Swiss govt. to help remove toxic substances from Porto Romano

    By Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA), 99-04-20



1. World Bank Offers Hope for Porto Romano Cleanup

By Alban Bala for Balkan Times in Tirana - 09/12/2002

Porto Romano sits on a former marsh inhabited by more than 3,000 people, most of whom came to this village from the poorer north of the country after the fall of communism in 1992. A year ago, the neighborhood was declared "a disaster area" by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

An elementary school is situated only 100 meters from the refuse of a chemical plant that once produced pesticides -- such as lindane, a nerve poison and carcinogen -- and sodium dichromate for leather tanning. Yellow stains from Chromium VI cover the valley, and doctors say those living nearby absorb the poisons through their skin.

UNEP estimates that evacuation, treatment and containment of the site would cost $10m. The World Bank's spokeswoman in Tirana, Ana Gjokutaj, says $250,000 has been allocated for a feasibility study. Now, the Bank plans to spend more than $5m on this project. According to Gjokutaj, implementation is expected to start next year.

According to the Environment Department in Durres, there are 20,000 tonnes of potentially dangerous chemicals on the site, including thousands of tonnes of lindane. The factory was shut down in 1990, but newly arrived residents stripped its contaminated bricks to build their homes, and some even converted shops into living areas. According to local accounts, people stole packing sacks dumped near the shore, mistaking the chemicals for paint. Environmentalists say fish from a wide area in the Adriatic, sold in large quantities in Albania's capital, Tirana, are contaminated.

"The fact that the World Bank has chosen Durres instead of the other four hot spots in Albania proves that we have an environmental disaster in Porto Romano," said Ilir Qesja, director of the Environment Department in Durres. Residents are expected to submit to rigorous medical checkups, while water contamination and the presence of the poison in plants will be studied.

Albanian authorities say they are ready to support any anti-pollution initiative. "We are confident the World Bank project will be effective", said an official with the Environment Ministry.


2.  Illegal and dangerous: Albania's risky new real estate

As officials struggle to reform the country, squatters set up homes in contaminated zone.

By Colin Woodard, Special to The Christian Science Monitor, from the July 12, 2002 edition

TAINTED PLAYGROUND: Children play inside the Porto Romano Chemical Plant in Durres, Albania. Thousands of Albanians are squatting in the plant's contaminated zone, and the government has yet to evict them.


DURRES, ALBANIA The abandoned Porto Romano chemical plant has no fences around it, no signs warning that it is one of the most severely contaminated places in the Balkans. Residents and visitors must draw their own conclusions from the puddles of yellow water on the grounds and mounds of Day-Glo yellow waste spread around the surrounding neighborhood.

But thousands of Albanians fleeing extreme poverty in the north of the country are now squatting in makeshift homes in and near the plant, where soil and groundwater pollutants are at 4,000 times the acceptable levels set by the European Union. Some have built homes from materials scavenged from factory structures. Their children use the plant as a playground, while family cows and sheep graze on weeds growing from the slag heaps.

"We know its bad for us here, but we have nowhere else to go," says Flutorime Jani, whose family lives in a former pesticide warehouse within the plant. "The authorities don't do anything to help us," she says before returning to her home.

The situation at the Porto Romano plant on the outskirts of Durres illustrates the distance reformers still have to travel. While some officials like Edi Rama, the mayor of Tirana, who has implemented quality-of-life improvements in the nation's capital have fought to win back public trust, there is still a long way to go. Many people are suspicious of anything the government says or does. Public property gets little respect, and people have grown accustomed to simply occupying any uninhabited space: city parks, rural land, even factories. The lack of public trust in state institutions has made it harder for this impoverished nation to build a viable economy, healthcare system, or even basic infrastructure.

At the Porto Romano plant, more than a year has passed since a team of United Nations experts alerted local and national authorities to the severity of the situation. But since the warnings, officials have failed to erect a fence or even place warning signs to ward off newcomers.

The plant produced pesticides and leather-tanning chemicals until it closed in 1990, along with most of Albania's industrial sector. A year ago, samples taken by UN Environment Program scientists revealed that the plant and its surroundings were contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals including chromium-6, a toxin well-known since the movie "Erin Brockovich."

An estimated 6,000 people now live in the contaminated zone, virtually all of them squatters who have moved to the outskirts of Albania's second-largest city during the past decade in search of a better life. Albanians were forbidden to move from their home villages under communism. Since 1991, hundreds of thousands of rural villagers have migrated to larger towns, creating halos of shantytowns around larger cities such as Durres and Tirana. Albanian officials haven't dared challenge squatters on state land because they feel it would be politically suicidal to take on a group that large.

New families continue to arrive at Porto Romano, according to Lushi Bajrami, a supermarket clerk who has lived on the plant's grounds since 1990. "People get sick here all the time," he says.

"Those people are not producing anything, but they are trying to keep the area under their control," says Durres Mayor Miri Hoti, who says the squatters are hampering efforts to privatize the factory for use as a petroleum storage site. "We lack the funds to fence the area and prevent new construction" by squatters there.

But Romeo Eftimi, a Tirana hydrologist who has studied the site, says the government could do more. "Even fencing the area with a simple fence just to show it's dangerous this could be done without waiting for big money or [internationally funded] projects," he says. "This is an urgent situation."

But elsewhere in Albania, there are more hopeful signs, as inventive leaders have begun restoring public faith in government, despite very limited resources.

In Tirana, Mr. Rama is giving the capital a low-budget facelift. Gone are the hundreds of illegal kiosks that had taken over the city's public spaces. New trash bins are popping up around a city where many people previously dumped household trash out their windows. Treacherous sidewalks have been repaired, while drab concrete apartment buildings are being repainted in bright colors.

"Edi Rama is one of a new breed of politicians who are emerging throughout southeastern Europe who understand that effective reform isn't just a question of following through on ruthless austerity programs," says Balkan expert Misha Glenny. "Edi is trying to give something back to people so they feel they have a stake in the political process and the future."

Rama, a onetime Albanian basketball star, says it is essential to restore hope to ordinary people. "Albania is like a station where everybody is waiting for a train or a boat ... or a beautiful man or lady to take them away because they've lost confidence in the government and any possibility of a better life," he says. "We don't have the resources to solve all our problems, but at least we can change the colors of the buildings, to show them that something is happening," he says.

Rama uses unorthodox strategies to improve tax collection and reduce corruption. Instead of hiring more police and tax collectors, he simply made procedural changes that reduced civil servants' access to situations involving cash payments. "When you have people being paid such low salaries and facing such indecent quality of life, you can't ask them to all be honest guys," he says. "It's better to keep them far from cash."



3.  Adriatic symposium celebrates World Environment Day

By Religion, Science and the Environment, 5th June 2002

Butrint, Albania 5th June 2002 - An international symposium will today focus attention on World Environment Day as it begins examining the environmental conditions of the Adriatic Sea. The symposium is beginning in Albania, which faces some of the greatest environmental and social challenges in Europe, and will sail to five Adriatic countries during 5-10 June.

The event, which is organized under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church, brings together approximately 250 scientists, environmentalists, government and religious leaders. This is the fourth symposium held by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is sometimes known as 'the Green Patriarch'.

"We come from many nations, ethnicities, faiths and professional commitments to join with the people of the Adriatic in the interest of preserving the blessing of the natural world," said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. "I am most pleased that our voyage begins on World Environment Day and in Albania, whose beautiful coastline reminds us of the splendor of God's creation."

This afternoon, the Symposium's international and regional delegates will visit Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The group, which includes Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, Archbishop Anasthasios, and several other Albanian delegates, is expected to be joined by Sir Patrick Fairweather, director of the Butrint Foundation.

Following the day's events in Butrint, the Symposium will sail overnight to Durres, Albania. In Durres, the delegation is expected to be greeted by President Rexhep Meidani, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and other Albanian dignitaries during the official opening session of Symposium IV: The Adriatic Sea 'A Sea at Risk, A Unity of Purpose'.

The Symposium delegates will visit a chemical and pesticide factory in nearby Porto Romano. The chemical factory has been declared "one of the worst environmental hot spots in the Balkans" in a 2000 assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme. The heavily contaminated area surrounding the former plant is inhabited by thousands of migrants from within Albania. Clean-up site of the site is a top environmental priority in the country, which has consistently ranked among Europe's poorest.

After departing Durres, the Symposium will make land visits in Kotor, Montenegro; Split, Croatia; Koper, Slovenia; and Ravenna, Italy, before its concluding session in Venice, Italy. In Ravenna, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will celebrate, for the first time in twelve centuries, an Orthodox liturgy in the sixth century Byzantine Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Classe. On 10 June, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in Venice, and Pope John Paul II, in the Vatican, will simultaneously sign the Venice Declaration, a statement inviting "men and women of good will" to consider a number of ethical goals relating to the environment.

Throughout the voyage, plenary sessions will discuss topics ranging from environmental ethics to specific issues relating to the Adriatic, such as tourism, pollution sources, and the fate of Venice. Speakers and delegates include noted religious leaders, such as HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon; HE Reis-Ul-Ulama Mustafa Efendija Ceric, of Bosnia and Herzegovina; HE Walter Cardinal Kasper; the Rt. Rev. and Rt. Hon. Richard JC Chartres; and distinguished public officials, including Mr. Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; Mr. Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden; Mr. Timothy E. Wirth, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs; HE Sadruddin Aga Khan, former United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, as well as noted scientific, environmental and government figures from throughout the Adriatic region.

Butrint, with a host of Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian remains, has great historic and environmental value. It has become the centre of an exciting venture in sustainable tourism. Lord Rothschild and Lord Sainsbury established the Butrint Foundation in 1993 to provide support to Albanian archaeology and monument conservation efforts and to prevent the area surrounding the Site from being developed without regard to the heritage or the environment.

Religion, Science and the Environment is a non-governmental organisation based in London, U.K. and Athens, Greece. Established in 1995, RSE seeks to provide common ground among the worlds of religion, science and the environment in the interest of protecting the environment. This mission has been addressed by holding three water-based symposia - Symposia I on the Aegean Sea (1995), Symposium II on the Black Sea (1997), Symposium III on the Danube River (1999), and by creating the Halki Ecological Institute. RSE's programs aim to raise awareness of the plight of the world's waters; to strengthen local capacities for environmental protection; and to catalyse projects that will benefit targeted waterbodies. The organisation's strategies are animated by a core belief that the analytical tools of science and the spiritual messages of religion must work in harmony if the earth's environment is to be safeguarded against further degradation.



4.  Porto Romano, Shkozet - highly polluted areas

By Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA), 99-07-28

DURRES, July 27 (ATA) - By S.Gjordeni: Porto Romano and Shkozet, Durres city, inhabited areas where even a plant and a chemical enterprise have functioned, are nominated as areas with a high level of pollution, the chairman of Environment Regional Agency (ERA) of Durres city, Ilir Qosja, told ATA on Wednesday.

According to him, a surface of 300 meters is covered with 1500 tons of sodium bichromate. The reaction of atmospheric agents, underground circulations, the passing of open corridors of sewages in this area have affected the spread of pollution in this area, either in the earth or sea by endangering the life of the flora and fauna of this region.

Although several measures are adopted during the 2-3 last years, this problem is not yet solved. For this aim ERA has prepared two projects to decide the level of pollution and to make afterwards the rehabilitation of polluted area. /led/A.A/



5.  Albanians threaten gunplay to close polluting factory

By GREEN HORIZON, Environmental story ideas and tips on news to watch in Central and Eastern Europe, Dec. 16, 1998 * Volume 1 Number 15

Residents of the Durres district of Porto Romano, Albania, have sent a letter to city officials threatening to use armed force to shut down a leather-processing plant that they claim pollutes the environment, according to a Dec. 9 "Albanian Daily News" report carried by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE). The residents warned that "if you do not shut down the factory that is poisoning us, we will pick up our guns and solve this problem in our way," the report said. The factory was built in 1990, closed within a few months by health authorities who said it caused environmental damage, then reopened in 1993, according to RFE. Officials reportedly said the Public Health Institute's most recent tests show that pollution levels do not exceed the legal norm. Contact: Agostin Cara, Durres Regional Environmental Agency, tel: (355-52) 22-230.


 6. Swiss govt. to help remove toxic substances from Porto Romano

By Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA), 99-04-20

DURRES, April 20 (ATA) - By S. Gjorderni: The Swiss government is going to help remove the toxic substances from Porto Romano, Durres. In a recent meeting of the administrative council of the Durres prefecture, the minister of Public Order Perikli Teta said that an agreement was reached with the Swiss government to remove the toxic substances in Porto Romano. There are 500 tons pesticides, 17 tons of ready made products of bechromatin natron and dozens of tons of technological refuses dumped there many years ago and which are a real danger not only for environment but also for the health of over 600 inhabitants of the area. Ilir Qosja, head of the Committee of Environment Protection at the Durres Prefecture, said to ATA that a Swiss institution was engaged in resolving this problem. Specialists of the institution have arrived recently in Durres and are trying to find ways of removing the toxic dumping. This institution is also going to remove 250 g arsenic which is in a village in Kruja area. s.s/das/ak/