Sometimes, it’s easier to look on the bright side – to focus on beauty and clear water, wild rapids and wildlife – than it is to stare straight at a garbage-clogged tributary, or concrete filled river. In Greece, we were exposed to remote and absolutely breathtaking canyons. But as we traveled north, this kind of untouched wilderness was harder to find, as the people of Albania struggle to carve out a life in a developing country.

Passing hydro dams on the highway our minds were quickly distracted by another stunning view – vistas of towering mountains, trees, rocks, and water. But the dry riverbeds became more frequent, and the pipes draining the life from these rivers stayed in our minds. The litter-filled tributaries of the Vjosa and Valbona, seemed to settle in somewhere deep. We all felt it.

On our way to the Valbona Valley we drove through crumbling towns where locals make a living as shepherds or running fruit and veggie stands. Like crossing a threshold from slum to mountain paradise, we felt spoiled and ‘safe’ being back in the mountains. But this feeling of cleansing and elation was erased completely when we saw what was being done to this National Park. Hearing and feeling the vibrations from dynamite blasting holes through the mountains in a National Park is an emotion that can only be described as sickening.

Big businesses fuelled by foreign investment are going ahead with construction, illegally and without permission. Locals seek information but have no idea what is going on – they just see new cars and big equipment driving through the valley, turning into newly made roads into the mountains, with guards at the gates.

The destruction is happening at river-level too, and Rok and Andraz took these images while paddling the most beautiful and best kayaking section of the Valbona. With construction workers making violent gestures and shouting at them not to take pictures, it’s clear they have a lot to hide.

This kind of exposure is exactly why BRT was created. Please help by putting your voice behind the river. Speak up on her behalf and encourage locals to do the same. There are no political or legal ramifications if we share a post on Facebook or Instagram, but for locals, fear of losing jobs or being penalized is real if they speak out against this destruction.

You can help save the Valbona by:

  1. Pressuring the Albanian government not renew the construction permit for the work being done in the Valbona Valley by sending an email to your local Albanian Embassy. Let them know we care and we are watching.
  2. Sharing this post and the accompanying video from BRT, tagging Albiana Prime Minister Edi Rama @edirama and #mosmaprekvalbonen
  3. ‘Buy the Valbona a beer.’ Make a small donation to TOKA, where your euros or dollars can go directly towards the legal battle to halt construction in Valbona Valley National Park.

If there is a river in the Balkans that needs your help right now, it’s the Valbona.