In the mid-1970s, the River Devoll (Deavolis in ancient sources), which flows entirely in Albania, was artificially connected with Lesser Prespa Lake, through the opening of a channel. The intervention aimed to use the waters of the lake for the irrigation of the plain of Korçë. However, over the years the sediment carried by the river steadily covered the greater part of the lake on the Albanian side. Thirty years later this diversion could no longer serve its original purpose, as the accumulated sediment made pumping water practically impossible, and the idea of extending the engineering works began to rekindle. At the same time, the visible degradation of the lake’s sensitive ecosystem concerned the authorities and the management bodies of the three sides, who discussed the matter through the then-active Prespa Park Co-ordination Committee and decided to proceed with the preparation of a relevant study to address the issue.
The purpose of the study was to investigate and evaluate the environmental effects of connecting the Devoll river with Lesser Prespa Lake and to propose alternative solutions to cover the irrigation needs of the Korçë plain, based on the principle of integrated water management mandated by the European Water Framework Directive.
This action was the first joint cross-border study on the interaction of Lesser Prespa Lake and the Devoll river systems, which was carried out with the collaboration of scientists from Greece (Society for the Protection of Prespa), Albania (Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania) and France (Tour du Valat). The results of the research study showed that the interventions of the 1970s caused serious hydro-morphological changes in the ecosystem of the protected area, as well as significant socio-economic effects on the local population of Albania, especially the fishermen. Furthermore, the diversion, no longer consistent with modern thinking regarding the integrated management of water resources within their natural limits, ultimately failed to meet the irrigation needs for which it had been originally designed.
The study resulted in a series of proposals and technical measures, both for the restoration and management of Lesser Prespa Lake in Albania and for dealing with the irrigation needs of the Korçë plain. Its results were consulted with the competent authorities of Korçë, while the common understanding of the problem and the desire to find effective and environmentally safe alternative solutions were confirmed. In the winter of 2008, at a meeting of the permanent Greek-Albanian committee on transboundary water issues, the decision of the Albanian authorities to permanently abandon the Devoll diversion project was officially announced.
2005 - 2006