Cement plants ire Albanian greens

TIRANA – Prime Minister Sali Berisha came under fire this week for approving cement plants his opponents say will violate environmental norms, pollute the capital and destroy forest the country cannot afford to lose. The opposition Socialists said cement plant contracts by Greece’s Titan and a Spanish firm were presented to parliament without technical details and would allow the felling of 260 hectares of trees. The prime minister said his conservative Democratic Party had inherited from its Socialist predecessor an «environment in the worst condition possible» and would take painful decisions to respect it. He denied the contracts in question were negotiated by the law firm run by his daughter and said European Union pollution norms would be respected. Environmentalists have been waging a campaign for years to stop the building of an energy park on the Adriatic coast in the southwestern area of Vlore, claiming concentration of a pipeline terminal, a thermal plant and oil deposits would kill tourism. Berisha initially opposed the projects launched by his Socialist predecessor Fatos Nano, and since coming to power has tried to find a middle way by moving some of the projects up north. Work on the power plant has begun. Brace told Reuters he believed the three cement plants, due to be built near Fushe-Kruje some 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the capital Tirana, would create a health hazard for more than 1 million people. Environmentalist Lavdosh Ferruni said it would be «a crime against the environment to cut the forests of Fushe-Kruja,» which Environment Minister Lufter Xhuveli had wrongly described as «degraded.»