ALBANIA: TOURISTS BALK AT GARBAGE PILES AND SEWAGE-FILLED SEA

TIRANA, Albania, Jul. 19, 2007 (IPS/GIN) — Beer bottles and plastic wrappers are a common sight along Albania’s coast, which lacks the garbage cans necessary to contain waste produced by the country’s growing tourism industry.

The sewage produced by Albanian cities flows untreated into the sea. Merita Mansaku-Meksi, an expert in waste management working for the Environmental Center for Development Education and Networking, said that although the water is largely safe for swimmers at the moment, the situation is not sustainable.

“Not only is sewage water dumped into the sea, but also used oil from restaurants and industrial production, and this increases the danger,” Mansaku-Meksi said.

The country faces similar problems with solid waste management. Traditionally, the authorities have simply dumped trash into empty fields close to the residential areas. Two decades ago, when the rates of consumption and waste production were much lower, the inappropriateness of the method passed unnoticed. Now, the trash is too much and too pollutant.

Over the past years, the authorities and specialized civil society organizations have started working their way through the problem of solid waste…[F]rom the beautiful medieval castle towering over the town, one can see piles of trash emitting clouds of smoke.

The picture is similar in most Albanian cities. Tirana and the nearby urban areas that make up the large city of Durres dump their waste in the nearby fields of Shara. The population of the neighboring villages is now getting increasingly concerned about the health risks arising from the garbage, and the municipality is planning to build a landfill…Tirana is one of only three cities in Albania to have concrete plans for constructing a landfill.

I was just about to publish the third letter from an American soldier in Kosovo when the military command discovered his correspondences with me and now he’s in deep doo-doo because our government doesn’t want you to know what’s going on in Kosovo. But the following excerpt from said letter is relevant here:

If these people are ready for independence, how come they don’t clean up their streets, towns, and cities, and remove the trash that has been sitting on the curb for several weeks to several months (the smell is getting to me)?…A lot of us feel like the Albanians here don’t really care nor give a crap about this place by the way they treat their countryside. Trash, filth — driving out into sector is a plethora of pungent aromas from burning trash, sewage, and God only knows what else. I suppose that’s because they really don’t know if this land will be theirs or go back to Serbia, but still. It doesn’t look good for them to want independence yet do nothing to clean up their community. Granted they are still very poor and don’t have the services we’re used to at home, garbage disposal, a good public health department to ensure that the living conditions are up to par, it still doesn’t give them the reason to just say “screw it”.

To Albanian supremacists everywhere: Yes, Albania is ascending. The world is your dumpster.