Pollution is the introduction of contaminants in the environment, causing harm, damage, stress and disruption of the systems and ecosystems found in that environment.
Pollution can be natural, like in the case of volcanoes, or may be caused by human activities. The major forms of pollution caused by the latter are:
- Air pollution;
- Water pollution;
- Soil pollution;
- Noise pollution, and;
- Radioactive contamination.
During the communist regime in Albania, the status of the environment was not a government priority, as it tried to lead Albania towards building a heavy industry relying mostly on Soviet and Chinese technology. Therefore, it did not fulfill any environmental protection standards. The result of heavy industry in Albania was air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, extermination of the flora and fauna near the factories, and direct impact on the health of the populations living near the factories, who were affected by respiratory diseases as well as birth defects.
The fall of the communist regime initiated the shutting of the old factories, thus leaving derelict buildings and tons of poisonous substances in warehouses.
The post-communist period witnessed an increase in air, water, and soil pollution, this time caused mainly by second-hand cars (the ban on car ownership was lifted after the fall communism in Albania). There has also been an increase in consumption and, as a result, more waste, more irresponsible individuals and businesses that illegally dumped waste on fields, forests, rivers, sea and waterways. Finally, noise pollution has increased considerably in the post-communist Albania.
The weak implementation of environmental protection laws and the lack of control over them has paved the way for air, water and soil pollution in Albania. Littering and dumping trash everywhere remains a serious problem nowadays. Parks and forests are often full of illegally dumped trash. There is an old tradition in villages to dump trash in rivers or streams. This has resulted in the contamination of rivers, lakes and the sea. Trash in the water is not just esthetically disturbing, but also gives rise to harmful and dangerous bacteria and algae. The process of trash decay produces a lot of methane, which is deadly for fish and other water creatures, and a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than CO2.
Burning of trash has contributed to the air pollution besides the pollution from old cars imported after the fall of communism. Albania is one of the last countries in Europe to allow benzene in gasoline to be sold in the market. This product is a dangerous chemical for the human health.
Figure 1. Shkodra, Albania, September 2007. Garbage and sewage dumped in Shkodra Lake.
The biggest lake in the Balkans is being heavily polluted. The consequences for the flora and fauna of the lake as well as the water quality are severe.
Figure 2. Tirana, Albania, March 2008
Low environmental consciousness leads people to litter indiscriminately, whereas the local governments have their own share of guilt—they provide very few garbage cans or places where to deposit trash. The effects are very evident: flying plastic bags in the air, dogs and mice that scavenge through the trash, rotting smell coming out from the garbage cans as a result of methane generation—not to mention the esthetical aspects and values.
Figure 3. Shëngjin Harbor, Albania, August 2007
Separated from the beach by just a barrier made of stones, the harbor is a smelly, garbage-full area where several sewage pipes empty, thus contaminating the ecosystem.
Figure 4. Shëngjin, Albania, August 2007
Open air sewers emptying in Shëngjin Harbor, running right between dwellings.
Figure 5. Shëngjin, Albania, August 2007. Sunbathing next to the garbage.
Low environmental consciousness has transformed frequented beaches into open garbage fields. Visitors litter on the beach, yet sunbathe next to the garbage pile.
Figure 6. Shëngjin, Albania, August 2008
Plastic bags, sacks, plastic bottles and a lot of other items thrown by humans are disrupting the functioning of several ecosystems in the sea. Plastic bags are major sea turtle killers as the turtles confuse the plastic bags with jelly-fish, eventually swallowing them.The plastic trash is disrupting and endangering the whole sea ecosystem.
Figure 7. Tirana, Albania, September 2008
There is no better visual proof for air pollution in Tirana than this abandoned car that has accumulated so much dust on its surface.
IEP is committed to fight pollution in Albania, and that is also the aim of most of our future projects and studies.