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Macedonia's dam plan spurs water diversion concerns in Albania

TIRANA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- A planned dam in Macedonia has spurred protests in neighboring Albania over concerns that the dam would ebb water flow of a river into the Drin River that Albania relied on to generate electricity.

The future of the project, which is still in the design stage, hangs on the approval of the World Bank and the riparian nations, namely Albania, Greece, Kosovo and Serbia.

"As riparian nations, they would be consulted on the design of the proposed project prior to any decision on World Bank financing," the World Bank has said in a recent statement.

Critics fear the planned 71-metre high dam at Lukovo Pole will not only harm a dozen endemic or endangered species like the Balkan lynx but also divert the flow of the Radika River from pouring into the Black Drin shared by both countries.

Under pressure at home from protesters and the opposition for seemingly neglecting the issue, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama tweeted that The Albanian government will not support a project that goes against the country's interests.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said the final decision concerning the dam will be made on the basis of the feasibility study by the World Bank.

"If it shows that the people and the environment, as well as neighboring countries, will suffer damage, the World Bank will be the first to cancel support for such a project," Gruevski said in an attempt to quell rising tension.

Constructing dams is part of a drive in Macedonia to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. But Albania relies totally on the Drin River to generate its electricity and diverting the Radika River would cut back its flow.

Relations between Albania and Macedonia over water are regulated by an agreement Albania signed with the now-defunct Yugoslavia, which Macedonia adopted as one of Yugoslavia's former republics.

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