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Albanian teenage girls create app to save one of Europe’s last wild rivers

The 270 kilometers Vjosa River in Albania is one of Europe’s last living wild rivers, with its untamed and free flowing, beautiful canyons, oxbows, and meandering stretches. The main source of the river is on Greek territory near the village of Vouvoussa and on its first 80th kilometre, it flows out of Greece, entering Albanian territory before finally going into the Adriatic Sea just north of Narta lagoon, one of the biggest and ecologically richest lagoons of the small Balkan country.

The beautiful river in Southern Albania has attracted attention inside and outside the country due to plans to built hydropower plants in its basin. The plans have alarmed environmental groups and  rang bells among the youngsters as well.

Four girls on a mission to save nature

13-year-old Amantia Jonuzaj,and her friends who have joined forces in a group called Citrine, have taken their own initiative to help protect Vjosa. They have created an application to help raise awareness on this sensitive topic.

“Initially our idea was to build an application for the protection of animals. We did some research and were impressed by the fact that the Vjosa River contained a large number of endangered species which are put at risk every day due to the construction of hydropower plants,” Amantia told Trending Topics SEE.

The whole application is based on information about Vjosa River and the protection of its ecosystem.

“Our group consists of four girls, and each of us worked on a specific theme for the application. Some took photos, some did research, some came up with ideas and I personally took care of designing and programming, which brought the app to life,” she adds.

Raising awareness

The girls hope that people will download their app and raise awareness on what’s happening and why it is wrong. “In order to protect Vjosa, we must all be united and share the same goal, the protection of The Blue Heart of Europe.”

Amantia explain that their application is intended to inform the public about the hidden gems of Vjosa, the wild nature that surrounds it and its endangered animals and plants. “Raising awareness of these special elements of nature will spur tourist interest and make people want to come and see the area.”

The closer the public is to this nature and the more it relates to it, the more aware they would become of the treasure that Europe may lose due human intervention.

 Vjosa – all in one place

“Everything related to Vjosa is part of the application. You can enjoy the wonders of nature that surrounds it through the gallery, you can find restaurants and hotels closest to the area or you can go fishing with family or friends while getting acquainted with the fishing areas,” says Amantia. “There are also guides with the most interesting activities such as rafting and hiking; information on the flora and fauna, and interesting facts about the endangered species living there.”

Amantia and her friends have also thought of ways to help animals and endangered species as well as visitors that might find themselves in a dangerous situation.

“If, while you’re this area, something unexpected happens – you see an injured animal, a fire or some other accident, we have enabled a speed dial feature which automatically redirects you to the emergency numbers of the police, the fire department, an ambulance or the nearest veterinary center.”

The group is part of a program called Technovation Girls, which is organising the American Corner Tirana’s Technovation Challenge, a competition bringing together girl teams from all over the world. They will compete with mobile apps that find a solution to a particular challenge, ranging from natural disaster preparedness and environmental protection to preventing domestic violence and encouraging volunteerism. The winner app will be announced on May 3rd and go to Appstore.

“We expect to be one of the best groups and we would be delighted to win the competition, but our main goal remains the same – save Vjosa and raise awareness regarding this sensitive topic very much talked worldwide.”

Amantia hopes their app will be open to the public in the future and have an impact, making it possible for everyone to get to know and appreciate this treasure.

Damming the river

Despite calls from EU to stop the construction of dams, Alanian authorities plans to build 27 hydropower plants in Vjosa’s basin. Environmental experts are warning that their construction would destroy the ecological value of the river and change its hydrological regime.

The clock is ticking – construction in the Vjosa basin is already underway and the Albanian beauty is in danger.

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