Open letter regarding illegal landfill in Brezovica ski resort

To the responsible institutions, media, NGOs and international donors

Regarding illegal landfill in Brezovica ski resort in Sharr Mountain National Park

 

GAIA, European Voluntary Service volunteers and young people from the Balkans want to express their resentment and frustration regarding the existence of an illegal landfill in Ski center Brezovica within the Territory of National Park Sharr Mountain. More than 50 young people from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Spain and the UK are insisting that the responsible institutions take action and clear the landfill. The youngsters and the organization recognize that the existence of the landfill is part of a bigger challenge regarding waste management within the ski resort and the National Park, therefore we are encouraging the respectful institutions to implement long-term solutions that actually prevent the creation of new landfills within the ski resort.

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12 volunteers of European Voluntary Service (initiative of Erasmus+ program of the European Commission) and 40 young people from the Balkans taking part in a Youth for Sharr gathering (supported by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) participated in a clean-up action organized by GAIA in the ski resort in the beginning of August. The illegal landfill in the entrance of the ski resort became the centre of the action, with volunteers collecting more than 200 trash bags from just a single part of the mountain slope. Most of the trash included glass bottles (beer, wine, water), plastic bottles and packages, construction material leftovers, broken ski equipment, diapers and other traces of human presence. It is clear that the intensive tourism in combination with a lack of control and collective reluctance to deal with the problem has ended up in a slope full of garbage, piling up for years.

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We find unacceptable that the resources of Sharr Mountain are being exploited in the name of profit while we ignore our responsibilities towards nature and the future generations. GAIA has previously expressed its strong opinions against other investment projects which threaten the values of the mountain, such as an expansion of the ski resort and small hydropower plants. Sharr mountain is proclaimed as a National Park and is even proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the center of mountain biodiversity of Europe, with 2000 plant species, 339 Balkan endemic species and 18 local. Sharr is the habitat for brown bear, lynx, wolves, chamois, wild cat and other mammals, at least 147 butterfly species, 159 bird species, 47 amphibian and reptile species and many other.  Sharr mountain does not deserve tons of garbage on forest slopes going into the rivers that flow through the Balkans.

We understand that waste management is a challenging topic in Kosovo, however, we believe that with political will and joint efforts we can solve the specific case of Brezovica ski resort and its garbage. When it comes to clearing the landfill, GAIA is willing to support the organization of volunteer actions with local and international volunteers. When it comes to long-term solutions, we suggest an information campaign is needed to clarify to visitors and local people what is allowed and forbidden when it comes to waste in the ski center and in the National park, who the responsible institutions are and to encourage people to report when witnessing illegal activities. Strict control over visitors and businesses and issuing fine tickets to the ones not following the regulations is also crucial.

GAIA has been active in the region of Brezovica since 2015 by bringing young people from different countries together for activities dedicated to nature protection and environmental justice. In 2017 with European volunteers we have conducted a clean-up action at the illegal landfill, the results of which are still visible nowadays (video). So far we have received support from the respective institutions (Municipality of Štrpce/Shtërpcë, National park Sharr), therefore we believe a common solution can be found.

We are looking forward to receiving your answers and possible solutions.

For further contact: gaia.kosovo@gmail.com, 043918118 (Miroslava Popova, in English).

 

With regards,                                                                                                                                    Date: 07.09.2018

Helena Poucki,

Legal representative of GAIA

 

GAIA (website, facebook) is an organization dedicated to culture of peace, social justice, sustainable development and respect of environment. GAIA is promoting cultural diversity and works on education and integration of marginalized and minority groups in society. The main activities of GAIA are coordination of volunteer exchange, organization of non-formal educational programs, cooperation with other local and international organizations, organization of festivals, promotion of volunteering, intercultural understanding and solidarity in the region of Balkans and promotion of freedom of movement and youth mobility. GAIA is an official branch of Service Civil International (SCI), one of the world’s largest international volunteering organisations dedicated to promoting peace and volunteering.

 

International and local volunteers who support the letter:

  1. Aid Agaj, Kosovo
  2. Aleksandar Yordanov, Bulgaria
  3. Andrijana Vesic, Kosovo
  4. Angela Mojsoska, Macedonia
  5. Ariston Lipa, Kosovo
  6. Bejtullah Sharku, Kosovo
  7. Charly Duhoux, France
  8. Daniel Laurent, France
  9. Dejan Mladenovic, Kosovo
  10. Donjeta Shatri, Kosovo
  11. Dunja Dragun, Croatia
  12. Dunja Karanovic, Serbia
  13. Elio Allmace, Albania
  14. Elodie Riviere, France
  15. Esmeralda Perseku, Albania
  16. Gentrit Behramaj, Kosovo
  17. Goran Stamatoski, Macedonia
  18. Granit Gashi, Kosovo
  19. Helena Obajdin, Croatia
  20. Igor Markovic, Serbia
  21. Irdi Malaj, Albania
  22. Isabelle Wadbled, France
  23. Iva Mengova, Bulgaria
  24. Ivica Stojkov, Macedonia
  25. Izabela Markova, Bulgaria
  26. Jelena Jovcic, Serbia
  27. Jeremy Flauraud, France
  28. Jana Jovasevic, Serbia
  29. Kieran Murphy, United Kingdom
  30. Kristina Topic, Serbia
  31. Lara-Lena Godde, Germany
  32. Liubov Obraztcova, Russia
  33. Madlen Zasheva, Bulgaria
  34. Maja Mlinarec, Croatia
  35. Maria Begona Santaella Gomez, Spain
  36. Marius Leveli, Albania
  37. Marko Zajic, Serbia
  38. Mevlude Skuroshi, Kosovo
  39. Mia Cuk, Serbia
  40. Miroslava Popova, Bulgaria
  41. Nikola Ilic, Kosovo
  42. Nina Brauch, Germany
  43. Petar Blazevski, Serbia
  44. Rosa Hergan, Austria
  45. Silvia Brdar, Croatia
  46. Slavco Tisevski, Macedonia
  47. Slobodan Vasic, Serbia
  48. Sophie Bitsas, Belgium
  49. Stefan Georgiev, Bulgaria
  50. Sugen Reddy, United Kingdom
  51. Suljan Lamaj, Albania
  52. Vaida Saulyte, Lithuania
  53. Vladimir Djordjevic, Serbia
  54. Wiebke Tebbe, Germany
  55. Yana Ivanova, Bulgaria
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Permaculture Design Certificate Course in Croatia 18-29 October – call for participants

GAIA Kosovo and ZMAG Croatia (Green Network of Activist Groups) are inviting you to apply for PDC course which will take place in Croatia, in Recycled Estate from 18th till 29th of October. This PDC is part of 3peas – Permaculture as a path to peace project supported by Erasmus+ program of the EU and is open only for members of the organizations who are partners in this project.

Organization Number of participants Max travel reimbursment (EUR)
SCI Italy 2 180
SCI Catalunya 2 275
PVN Albania 2 275
CID Macedonia 2 275
VCV Serbia 2 180
VUK Croatia 1 180
CVS Bulgaria 2 275
Bugday Turkey 1 275
SCI Hellas 1 275
SCI France 2 275
SCI Germany 1 275
Utilapu Hungary 2 180
Nešto Više Bosnia and Herzegovina 2 180
GAIA Kosovo 2 275

Participation fee for this PDC will be 60 € for program countries and 40 € for Western Balkans (Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Continue reading “Permaculture Design Certificate Course in Croatia 18-29 October – call for participants”

BREfest celebrated Sharr Mountain nature and culture

From 11th to 13th of August more than 150 people joined BREfest, a festival of music and nature organized by GAIA (SCI Kosovo) at Brezovica, Kosovo. Local people and guests from around Kosovo and neighboring countries gathered in the ski center of Brezovica for this nature celebration.

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BREfest – live music and fire in Brezovica ski resort, Sharr mountain, Kosovo; photo credit: Gowhere.bg

The idea behind BREfest was to highlight the beauty of Sharr Mountain, to raise awareness of environmental topics and to provide space for people who love the mountain to meet and to share their vision for the future.

The message of the festival “Sharr is more than snow“ emphasised the unique, natural and cultural values of the mountain, besides the attractive skiing slopes in winter.

Before the festival, volunteers from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Serbia, Turkey and the United Kingdom, together with local volunteers, prepared the place and the activities, and also organized a clean-up action in the mountain. Extinction of a Trash mountain in Sharr mountain is a short video telling the story of the clean-up action.

A few days before the event, the participants of “Tour of Freedom“ also joined the group, bringing stories and experiences from their bike travel through Kosovo. The travelling workcamp crossed Kosovo from North to South within three weeks. The volunteer got to know local communities and the environmental and social challenges they are facing. They got involved and inspired actions to act on those issues. The Bike Tour volunteers told their stories through impressive exhibition of pictures and words and via engaging human library on the first day of BREfest.

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Opening of the exhibition of Tour of Freedom travelling workcamp; BREfest 2017, Kosovo; photo credit: Aleksandra Hiltmann

During the three days of the festival, the program was diverse with different activities, on topics including environment, migration and future challenges to the region. There were several workshops, such as Recycle Art, DIY (Do it Yourself), printing and sewing. In order to start each day with positive energy, BREfesters discovered the art of Capoeira Angola – a mixture of game, dance, martial art and music with roots from Brazil and Africa.

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DIY workshops during BREfest 2017, Kosovo; phto credit: Aleksandra Hiltmann

Every evening movies regarding the daily festival topic were screened.  To explore the mountain, activities such as guided tours, a herbal tresure hunt and a poetry session in nature were organized.

There was also a space to discuss topics such as migration, zero waste and environmental challenges in Kosovo. Participants of “Route to Connect“ field study trip, shared their take on the current refugee situation, through an exibition and discussion. This linked the history of Sharr mountain, a transborder region with a history of migration throughout the past centuries, to the ongoing humanitarian crisis on the Balkans and beyond.

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Route to connect exhibition, BREfest 2017; photo credit: Aleksandra Hiltmann

A group of 30 children and youth from Imaginatorium, an alternative educational center in Gracanica, also joined BREfest on Saturday, taking part in the different activities like arts, walking tours and games. For most of the kids it was the first time to explore the wild and unspoiled nature of the mountain and to be surrounded by so many volunteers from all around the world.

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Children from Imaginatorium in BREfest 2017, Kosovo; photo credit: Polina Raynova

Jimmy Mustafa Band, a Roma band, Trio Bibera, a jazz group, and Rootsman, a reggae band from Macedonia,  joined the festival for the musical evenings. This mixture of genders and ethicities was an example of how music can connect people.

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Jimmy Mustafa Band performing; photo credit: Gowhere.bg

BREfest was intended to promote a different approach to appreciating nature, by provoking the participants to consider their own impact on the environment. Food was vegan, free of charge and cooked by volunteers.

„Share and exchange“ was another festival principle which was implemented by encouraging sharing tranport to the ski resort, and also exchanging skills, homemade products, food and experiences between people.

After the success of BREfest 2017, the team is already thinking about organizing it again in 2018. And we hope to meet again with anyone who wants to join us to celebrate the nature and culture of Sharr mountain!

Raquel Amaral, Portugal, an EVS volunteer in short-term EVS „All colours of Sharr mountain“, part of „Thinking like a mountain…“ project supported by Eramsus+ programme of the EU.

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