Sharr’s nature conservation is conditioned by the recent history; the territory of the mountain being administratively divided between several countries with different, constantly changing legaslation, influence of international and EU regulations, disfynctioning legal systems and deeply rooted values and cultural traditions of people from diverse ethnical, religious and national background.
In simple words … it is complicated. We have been trying to understand how things function for some time now, so let’s share what we now. As always be aware that we might have misunderstood or misinterpreted some information, so if you can share with us more acurate information, please do so, by sending us an email to gaia.kosovo [@] gmail.com.
Why National Park?
Sharr mountain has been identified as one of the important areas when it comes to biodiversity, variety of glacial landscapes, habitats and water sources. It is one of the “older” mountain in the region, therefore being a safe heaven for species exisiting from antient times. Moreover, its specific location and climate defined even more valuable for protection places where you can find the most southern appearances of species typical for the north. All of this together with a will to protect the local culture and traditions lead to proclaiming Sharr mountain National Park in 1986 in Yugoslavia.
The Law on the National Park “Sharri” was adopted by the Assembly of Kosovo in December 2012 where the park teritorry was extented to 53 469 ha. Based on the Law on nature protection and on the Law on the National Park “Sharri” the establishment of Directorate of “Sharri” National Park, responsible for the management of the park, is foreseen.
In 2013 the Spatial Plan for the National park (version in English), followed by the Management plan of Sharri National Park in 2014 (version in English, however, the official version is the one in Albanian available in the website of the Kosovo Agency of Environmental Protection) were adopted. These 2 documents serve as the leading documents determining the management of the park, vision, strategy and actions within the park. They also are the respective documents which present what is allowed, what is forbidden, what is encouraged and what should be overcome as challenges within the protected area.
A National park is part of the protected areas system in Kosovo defined by the Law on Nature Protection. It fits to Category II of protection level defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The National park provides one of the highest level of protection, but still allows for some areas to be open for visitors and infrastructure, however preserving large teritorries known as core areas where conservation and preservation activities come first. What is very specific for national parks is that they are created with the idea of prtecting ecosystems, rather than a specific monument, habitat or species.
However, it is worth to mention that in Kosovo (similar to most of the Balkans) many of the protected areas are proclaimed on paper but in reality not enough is being done for conservation of ecosystems, habitats and species. And even less when it comes to public participation in the management process and respect to the needs and struggles of local epople.
Zonation in the Sharri National Park
The management plan of the National park defines the management regulations within the park teritorry. Otherwise said – the zonation within the park. According to the legislation of Kosovo there are four zones of management when it comes to National parks.
Strict Protection Zone (First level protection zone): “Includes parts of the territory of the Sharri National Park with exceptional natural features, with rare species, endangered plants and animals and types of habitats in the wild conditions of nature.” As of today zone 1 takes up to 9 % of the park territorry with 15 places declared for strict protection.
Active Management Zone (Second level protection zone): “Includes parts of the territory of Sharri National Park that is characterized by ecosystems, landscape values and other values where may be exercised ecotourism, traditional agriculture and activities that are not inconsistent with the purposes of protection.” Most of the territory of the National park is declared as active management zone.
Sustainable Use Zone (Third level protection zone): Includes parts of the territory of Sharri National Park scheduled for: construction, reconstruction, protection of traditional and recreational facilities, tourism and the needs of inhabitants in the territory of the National Park, as well as use of pasture and economic use of nature resources according to the Law on Protection of nature and in compliance with relevant laws and Spatial Plan of National Park the limited and selective use of natural resources.
Buffer Zone: A zone of fifty (50) meters from the border of Sharri National Park that serves to prevent adverse impacts on the National Park.
Worth to mention is that the zonation of the park has been changed. The area around Durlov potok/Procka e Durlës has been designated as first protected zone (strict protected zone) due to its rich biodiversity and diverse habitats. However, a controversial investment project for the expansion of Brezovica ski reosrt, defined as of national interest by the Kosovo government, became a good enough reason that the area around the mountain stream neighbouring the existing ski resort to be defined as third protection zone or the one with lowest level of protection.
According to the Management pland the Directorate is to follow 5 working programs:
- Biodiversity, Environment and Landscape
Goal: To maintain a connected landscape of intact ecosystems within and beyond Sharri National Park and to ensure the conservation of the species these ecosystems support
- Communities, Culture and Sustainable Development
To maintain the cultural values of the national park as part of the national heritage of Kosovo and as an opportunity for building community pride and enhancing tourism and recreation.
- Tourism and Recreation
To develop a range of opportunities for public enjoyment of Sharri National Park that maintain its natural and cultural values and deliver support for its management
- Information, Education and Awareness
To build awareness, understanding and support at all levels for the protection and sustainable management of Sharri National Park.
- Governance, management, adminstration and finances.
To establish an effective, participatory and adequately resourced system of governance and administration for Sharri National Park.
Threats and challenges
The Management plan defines quite a few challenges and threats to the exisiting ecosystems in the National park. Some of them have higher, others – lower impact, but all of them are to be taken into account when taking management decisions for the park.
- Construction and land use conversion: Tourism infrastructure, road construction, utility lines, mining and mineral extraction
- Livestock, Farming, Grazing, etc.: overgrazing, undergrazing, fires
- Hunting and poaching
- Gathering plants and other wild products
- Logging and woodharvesting
- Human intrusion and disturbance
- Dams, hydrological management and water management: illegal water abstractions for tourism development goals; lakes and reservoirs creation for artificial snow; small hydropower plants
- Invasive and other problematic species and genes: invasive species; large carnivores conflict with domestic animals and agriculture
- Pollution: sewage and waste water; garbage and solid waste
- Erosion and land degredation
- Climate change and extreme weather
- Specific social and cultural threats: loss of traditional practices and adopting of new unsustainable ones