Today, on February 27, 2017, representatives of the Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) met with inhabitants of the Zharrëz village, in Patos Municipality. These inhabitants have started for some days now a rally and have walked toward Tirana, settling in front of the Ministry of Energy and Industry.
For some time now, Zharrëz inhabitants have complained and have laid out their demands, claiming that the resolution of these demands has been dragged out. This forced them to escalate their protest both through entering into a hunger strike and by further continuing their rally.
Their complaints, as it emerges from the conversations we had with them, mainly have to do with the violation of their rights of a social-economic nature. Inhabitants complain that their homes have been partially or completely damaged due to frequent earth tremors. To that end, although an evaluation of damages has been done for some time now, no compensation has been given to them. Inhabitants also complain that the water they use is mixed with harmful matter and, at first sight, looks like oil; the village land does not yield agricultural products due to the pollution of the environment as a result of oil-extracing activity; they also complained that the air is heavy with elements released from the extraction of oil, harming the health of inhabitants, etc.
The protesting inhabitants of Zharrëz, who continue to remain at the Ministry of Energy and Industry, confirmed that government representatives, in the meeting held on February 25, 2017, engaged to conduct a reevaluation of damages, and their compensation 100% for the damages caused and the undertaking of repair measures for the underground and surface problems according to international standards.
The protesters of the Zharrëz village, as we found out, continue to remain in front of the mentioned Ministry building, in entirely inappropriate conditions. In their opinion, they plan to remain there until the relevant act of the Council of Ministers is formalized and for which they have reached an agreement with the head of the special interministerial group.
AHC appreciates the right to rally, but also calls on the government to undertake fast and effective measures for the realization in practice of the demands of the Zharrëz inhabitants. Any delay, in the circumstances when there are claims that problems of these inhabitants were already dragged out in the past, would further aggravate the situation they are in.