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TAP in Vithkuq: Operating with respect for tradition, cultural heritage and the environment

21 October 2015

 

In June 2015, TAP started preparing infrastructure along the pipeline route in Albania. This is the first phase of civil works in that country, and precedes the actual construction of the 215-km long of TAP pipeline in Albania as part of the transportation chain of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. This phase focuses on the rehabilitation and construction of the access roads and bridges through which materials and equipment will be transported.

 

One of the areas where work on the road infrastructure has started is Vithkuq in the municipality of Korça. Approximately 13 kilometres of roads have been planned for construction and rehabilitation while four bridges will be upgraded along the Ura - Floq - Vithkuq route.

This region is very special and renowned for its rich cultural heritage and numerous monuments, especially of a religious nature. There are three ancient castles in the Vithkuq area dating back as far as 2BC including Bellovoda, Lubonja, and Shen Pjeter. In addition, there are 24 churches and three pre-12th century monasteries as well as more than 100 natural drinking water streams. All this makes the Vithkuq region one of the most popular tourist destinations in Albania.    

Recognising the importance of this area to the nation’s cultural heritage, TAP has paid special attention to the assessment and analysis of the pipeline route in order to protect these precious monuments and reduce any impact on the natural surroundings. With this in mind, many cultural heritage, environmental and social studies and assessments have been undertaken since the start of the pipeline route design. This has been challenging work that required detailed research and expertise with support from many different specialisms to work together with TAP.  The pooled knowledge and experience ensured that the operational needs of the TAP project were met while also avoiding any adverse impact on the area.

This included defining strategies and methods and control approaches to ensure implementation of measures to effectively mitigate potentially adverse cultural heritage, environmental and social impacts and to provide a framework for compliance monitoring (auditing and inspection) by which TAP intends to be assured that the EBRD commitments for the Project will be met.

“To us, the preservation of tradition is very important and we are glad TAP has also taken into consideration the natural wealth of the area. Our history is clearly reflected in the old castles and the churches which have some of the most beautiful alfresco paintings in Albania. TAP is conscious of all this and is working in harmony with the region” – said Petraq Shore, Head of the Village.

Should any archeological chance finds be identified or uncovered during the works, the archaeologists and staff teams working in the field have been trained to stop work immediately and notify the relevant authorities.  

TAP’s rehabilitation of access roads and bridges will help increase visitor numbers and boost income from local tourism as access to the Vithkuq area will be much improved. The improved transport infrastructure will also enable the inhabitants of the area’s more remote villages to transport their agricultural produce much more easily to the city of Korça and beyond.  

TAP’s presence in the Vithkuq area, as in all regions through which it passes in Albania, means that not only is it the largest energy investment in the country, but just as importantly, it will bring significant economic benefits to the local population, help facilitate tourism and the promotion of local products while also respecting and preserving local culture and traditions.