One year on, Albania remembers its deadliest floods
Ali is a shepherd from Suhe Village in Gjirokaster, in southern Albania. Each day he rises at dawn to care for his grass-fed sheep. He makes a living by selling the milk he gets from the sheep to a local processor.
In February 2015, Drinos river water overflow washed away the protective embankment of Suhe Village for a length of 200 meters, causing the flooding of around 300 hectares of agricultural land, pastures, homes and local business. Planted land was submerged, affecting crops at various stages of development. Albania is among the most vulnerable places in the Balkans when it comes to climate change. This is in part because of changing weather patterns, but it’s also because of the country’s reliance on agriculture to fuel its economy.
“Around 220 millimeters of rain fell in two days. Hundreds of families and their livestock were moved from homes and farms. My farm, my house and my land were under water. Many people were evacuated from their homes but I refused to leave,” explains Ali.
Ali recalls the horror he had to go through while trying to rescue his sheep. He felt despair as he watched 13 sheep floating dead in the water.
One year on, a flood protection infrastructure completed in Ali’s village is saving the livestock, business and his community.
The river embankment damaged by the floods has been fixed with a new levee with gravel combined with groins and river stone, keeping the rains from flooding the land. This investment saved agricultural land and helped the locals regain their livelihoods.
The intervention is Suhe is one among six others completed in Gjirokaster worth 1 million USD. The development works implemented consisted in restoring critical flood protection, irrigation and drainage infrastructures.
Meanwhile, the European Union-devised Floods Recovery Programme, amounting to 15.9 million Euros, has been working to strengthen the country's infrastructure for better flood protection and preparedness. The inititative has focused on delivering support to the most affected and vulnerable sectors of agriculture.
Besides infrastructure support, the programme also works to raise awareness about climate related risks and the need to take adoptive measures.
The intervention is implemented by UNDP. It consists in the rehabilitation of priority infrastructure such as the 16 flood-affected infrastructures, which include 16 kilometers of river embankments and irrigation & drainage channels. These interventions amount to 6 million Euros. An additional 300,000 Euros is provided by UNDP.
“We have one single objective: to reduce the risk that natural disasters of this kind happen again.