Skadar Lake, the largest wetland in the Balkans, has been a protected National Park in Montenegro since 1983 and was added to the World List of Internationally Important Wetlands, held by Ramsar, in 1996 in recognition of its enormous value as an aquatic habitat.
Now at threat from imminent building of a massive resort, the lake’s untouched rocky shores, islets, marshlands, willow forests, open waters and miles of floating vegetation are home to an estimated 281 species of birds, 48 species of fish, 50 species of mammals, numerous amphibians, reptiles and insects including some of Europe’s most threatened wildlife such as the rare Dalmatian Pelican – a resident bird. In short, it is a natural paradise.
Yet despite commitments made by Montenegro’s current Government to protect this ecological treasure, including its obligations to conserve it as a candidate EMERALD and NATURA 2000 site, the Ministry of Tourism and Sustainable Development is permitting the construction of a mega tourist resort, Porto Skadar Lake, destroying the ecological character of this special lake and waiving its own strict regulations, which have prohibited building at the lake’s shore for decades.
The complex, with its plans to sleep 600 in “luxury” and provide berths for 30 boats, is just the tip of the iceberg. A new spatial plan drafted behind closed doors proposes the construction of several more big tourist infrastructures at Skadar Lake National Park and the removal of some areas of the National Park altogether, such as the precious Moraca River delta – an Important Bird Area (IBA). This is mass tourism in an area which has almost no capability to protect the environment from huge volumes of visitors or monitor for illegal activities.
We already have a terrible example of how the system works: within the last fifteen years, much of the Montenegrin coast has been savagely destroyed by the large-scale construction of flats, houses and hotels for the market. Montenegrins have lost their coast forever, with most not even benefiting economically.
If we don’t take action now, precious Skadar Lake, which has escaped this building frenzy until now, could be lost forever.