In 2014, as anti-hydropower plant protests in Albania intensified, an initiative to protect rivers in the Balkans known as “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” launched the Vjosa River Campaign in Albania to save what is known as the “Last Wild River in Europe.” The Campaign’s main goals consisted of preventing the construction of hydropower plants and turning the Vjosa into Europe’s first “Wild River National Park,” a status that would severely limit future development. But, this Campaign would not be easy. Albania is a highly centralized, fragile democracy with a long history of political oppression and economic struggle whose top-down government is still generally inaccessible to public interest groups or influence. The country relies entirely on hydropower for its electricity production, leading to high uncertainties in energy security, especially in face of increasing periods of drought. The Campaign organizers and activists would have to strategize carefully and creatively to navigate the Albanian political landscape to reach its goals. What did they do? What worked or didn’t work along the way? Finally, would hydropower, considered a renewable energy source with low carbon emissions, enhance the country’s energy security? Or, would hydropower development on the Vjosa just not be worth it as a national and cultural treasure is destroyed alongside local livelihoods related to fisheries, agriculture, and tourism? Upon reading this case study, readers will learn about how environmental campaign organizers and activists mobilize in the face of the complexities of hydropower development in Albania, a struggling democracy.

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