National Action Plan on Albania’s thorough cleanup underway in coastal areas 

Implementation of the National Action on the complete cleanup of Albania commenced today in the country’s coastal area and is expected to further expand to include all districts across the country.  The plan is designed to deliver not only on a cleanup action, but also on building a new management, funding, overseeing and cooperation system with the local government structures and residents.

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at the ceremony marking the start of implementation of the National Action Plan on complete cleanup of Albania:

I would like to thank first and foremost the young girls and boys, who joined us today, as they help us to convey an important message on indispensability of a much broader and more significant participation in this process, which has been set up by capitalizing on the experience and lessons we have drawn over many years and on our commitment that clean Albania is a top priority of our third term in office.

By a broader participation I mean not only those who would physically join us in this effort by being present in every hotspot, where this initiative will be implemented, but I also mean all those working, living, and travelling all over the country and who are indeed the true polluters, because the waste and rubbish here were neither thrown and disposed by a supernatural force, nor are they some archaeological remains, but they are continued pollution caused by all of us together.

If everyone driving to the other side were not to throw the plastic bottle or anyone coming together with their families to spend few hours here or anywhere under the pine trees shadow were to collect their leftover, then there would be no reason for us all to feel disgraced for polluting this wonderful country that God or mother nature have blessed us with, a country that many envy, but we ourselves are actually the reason why it leaves a bad taste also to those visiting it.

It impresses me a lot, since I constantly follow the citizens involved in social media networks, because everyone seems to be an environmentalist when it comes to making comments on the social media, but when I consider how few of those who pretend to be true environmentalists, not only through their comments, but also in their behaviour, then I say everyone should start from his or her own self, because being a patriot does not mean being ready to fire the rifle via Facebook, it does not mean even being ready to fight for the homeland while commenting from a cafe or from home.

To be a patriot means keeping your country and your homeland clean, not to scratch the face of your homeland, among other things. This plan, as I already said, derives from many lessons we have learned over these years. The situation here and everywhere else used to be much worse a few years ago, but it is still very bad compared to how it should be and how it should be Albania that is seeking to become the champion in the Balkans for tourism.

In addition to tourism, as the Minister rightly noted, such pollution also hurts the economy of every one of us; it hurts the national economy, the welfare of everyone, not only because of tourism, but also for its entire chain effect. Pollution also poses a threat to the health of the population. It takes up to 1000 years for a plastic bottle to decompose in the ground and the presence of millions and billions of such waste on our land is a serious disease. Such pollution is a cancer we ourselves cause and nurture precisely by throwing everything on the streets.

Everyone knows this and I am saying nothing new, but the point is what we should do to take cleanliness to a whole new level.

The Minister already revealed some of the objectives and the today’s event doesn’t merely marks the start of an action, but it is a systematic plan, under which all the hotspots, as called by environmentalists, will be cleaned first and we will then make sure that these areas are not polluted again, because this is actually not the first event of this kind. This is not the first time when I, together with previous environment ministers, have engaged in a cleanup operation, but this will be the last time when after cleaning the area is polluted again just a few weeks later.

Everyone here of course has a responsibility, we all share the responsibility, but it is time for responsibilities not only to be shared, but also to be demanded from every institution and every individual. 

We have made it very clear and we are already on the way to implementing what we have pledged and I have made it clear when the new government program was presented in the Assembly.

No municipality will be allowed to do anything else unless they provide the required financial sources to support cleaning action and if they fail to ensure that these sources are translated into a concrete outcome, namely a clean and sustainably clean territory, and not just temporarily clean. What does this mean? This means that for the very first time, the Minister of Environment and Tourism, but in this case we are focusing on the environment, has calculated the cleaning cost for every municipality and, based on the cost, she has proposed the next year’s budget for every municipality. The Minister, together with our delegated officials to every district – the Deputy PM is delegated to Vlora region – will personally attend meetings of every city council across the country’s districts, and they will call on the city council members to oppose the municipal budget if the mayor fails to project all the required fund to support cleaning of the territory under the municipal management.

Second, every municipality today, unlike eight years ago, has endpoint waste solution sites available now and therefore it is no longer tolerable that the waste are disposed on the streets, but instead they should be collected at the disposal sites as stipulated by law, namely the endpoint waste solutions or the waste management technological plants, or the incinerators, and the commonly known sanitary landfills.  No municipality will be allowed for any reason or excuse, instead of taking the urban waste to the endpoint waste solution sites create other illicit disposal sites. Law envisages penalties on mayors and the municipalities, but in addition to the sanctions, this is what for the cost will be valid.

It is easy for municipalities to dump garbage on the streets, creating illicit waste collection sites, not like this here that has turned into an illegal waste disposal site by those who visit the Pylli Soda area, but I mean the waste disposal site where garbage trucks dump garbage with the mayor’s consent, does not accurately measure the weight of waste, creating this way a path for abuse, making declarations of the amount of waste that does not match the amount of waste collected. This will end with the endpoint waste solutions sites.

The hottest spot in this process is also the most strategic area for the tourism industry and our economy.

It is intolerable that mayors of the coastal cities consider cleaning to be drudgery. Cleaning should be a top priority for the mayors of the coastal municipalities. Everything else may be avoided, but cleaning should be prioritized to the maximum and therefore we will set up an extra funding for the country’s coastline and establish a taskforce within the National Coastline Agency that will help municipalities, while the next year’s budget will be overturned by any city council in case the tax collected for the administration of beaches by private entities, will not be earmarked to ensure cleaning of the whole area, not only the small areas under the management of private entities.

The next issue is the serious pollution caused by businesses, restaurants, which throw their waste, causing their own illegal disposal sites.

No business on the coastal areas will be allowed or will no longer be tolerated, if they do not pack their waste in front of their business premises at a certain time of the day.

On the other hand, the municipalities, together with the Task Force, should arrange everything to collect all the waste within an hour at the end of the day or at the end of the whole activity. Black bags of business waste will no longer be thrown in the public waste containers, which are there not for businesses, but for the household waste only. 

To this end, in parallel with these initiatives, another fund has been included in the next year’s state budget to encourage the best performing municipalities by refunding their spending on cleaning so that they can support other development projects. These all are lessons we have already learned and they are definitely a synthesis of the best practices and experience we have seen in other countries and from which we can draw what fits best with our reality.

To conclude, it is intolerable that the State Police are not involved in this vital need of our nation to have a clean common house. What does this mean? This means that the State Police, pursuant to the law, is the authority tasked with defending the territory of the Republic of Albania. All other authorities have specific responsibilities, the inspectorates have specific responsibilities, but the whole environment and the territory of Albania can’t be protected by a small number of inspectors and in no country across the world inspectorates operate in every square kilometre of the territory. It is the State Police that control and operate in every corner of the territory.

It is unjustifiable and intolerable for the State Police that around 3000 square meters of land were illegally filled with gravel just a few days ago and just a hundred meters away from here.

These are purely environmental crimes, just like building illegally in the coastal areas or along the coast is a crime. Instead of show their zeal by imposing fines on individuals building a wall in their own land in remote rural areas, far from the coastal area, far from the tourist areas and protected areas, police officers should be vigilant when dozens of trucks drive right in front of their eyes to easily occupy 3000 square meters of land and build illegally there.

It is part of the plan that State Police officers and every policeman in every area should watch out and collect immediate information on every brutal violation of the environment, be it either illegal construction or waste dumping in unauthorized areas, illegal logging or illegal excavation of the riverbeds.

I am confident this is a winning plan, because its components are there, while the experience we have accumulated is an added value in our efforts to successfully deliver on this plan. I very much hope that many people will join us in this process, but above all I very much hope that those who refuse to do so, and it is in their right not to join this effort and they can absolutely do their job without participating in these activities, they do not pollute the country.

They should think twice before throwing waste and rubbish on the ground, when they throw them from the car window, or leave behind their leftovers after a family picnic, setting a scandalous and criminal example for their own kids too, as they would imitate their parents when throwing rubbish on the streets, and that is exactly the moment when they should think about their patriotic comments and think as fervent patriots, honour the national flag, pay tributes to the martyrs of the nation and the national renaissance personalities and fight against traitors.

This is treason, seemingly unapparent, but it is actually a very obvious treason against the nation, it is the contribution of many minor actions of treason that make up this serious treason against our country. To generate your own country in the eyes of other people is a grave treason and it is treason to turn your own country into a disposal site to throw in the eyes of your children every sort of waste.

Vlora, instead of being a role model for cleanliness and waste management, just like it is a model of transformation, just like it has become a role model for its tourist attractions, just like it has become a model for growth of small business activities, revenue and turnover increase, is unfortunately in the meantime the worst and the ugliest model for abuse with environment and the indifference of the municipality.

It is unimaginable, because this is not the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. This is a forest that would take just a three-minute drive for Vlora Mayor and other relevant municipal officials to traverse the entire length of this forest. There is no need for troops, volunteers or half of cabinet members or all lawmakers to come and clean this area. It would just take the Mayor and five other municipal officials to show up here with a black bag in their hands to plead with citizens not to force us to come back here again and so that the Pylli i Sodes becomes an area, where nobody throws their waste. However, this is something completely different.

Thank you very much!