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The new Master Plan of Ballshi, 2004 - Summary

in collaboration with the ISPU, Institue for Urban Studies and Planning - Ministry for Territory Management and Tourism, Tirana

by Giovanni Sergi | Fatlinda Struga

Travelling southwards by car or coach along the road connecting Fieri to the Greek border we arrive in Ballshi, capital of the Malacastra district, an area in the South of Albania characterised by hills and low mountains, zone of transition between the flat territories on the coast and the mountains of Central Albania.

Ballshi was already known in the Greek and Roman ages thanks to the asphalt cement (extracted near Valona) and bitumen mines and has been heavily exploited from 1868 for the extraction of differents materials. In 1918 the mines were granted to the Italian Mines Society; during the First World War the Austrian discovered oil sands; during the 20’ the Englishmen, the Americans and the Italians were committed to search for oil in the quite big area between Valona and Kuçova.

The already existing Master Plan for Ballshi - drafted in 1970 - was no longer suitable to promote town development. Economic and social changes that took place in the last decades had made necessary to adapt the Plan to the new context.
Since 1993 the Albanian territory has changed deeply: the possibility for the people to move from the mountains or rural areas to urban areas - such as Tirana, Durazzo, Valona, Scutari, Saranda, Fieri - has caused several problems both related to the use and ownership of land and its exploitation. The town of Ballshi and its territory needed updated and relevant urban planning solutions in order to implement the model of sustainable development. The new Plan was drafted by the ISPU in Tirana in 2003 and approved by the municipality of Ballshi in 2004.

Some of the principal problems faced in the Plan are:

• the pollution of the atmosphere, water and soil
• the paucity of infrastructures for the town
• the paucity of social services
• the lack of an area for free time and entertainment
• the low density in residential areas
• the lack of facilities for cultural, artistic and tourism related activities
• the lack of urbanised areas to meet the demand for new houses

The majority of buildings that have been built over the past few years lack administrative authorisation by the Municipality. Comparing the limitations set by Master Plan in 1970 with the current situation, it is possible to see that the surface designed for the residential area is bigger than foreseen by the Plan. The slopy and sometimes rugged ground of some zones of the city has facilitated an extensive exploitation of the areas for residential settlements.

The importance of numerous different industrial activities in Ballshi is highlighted by the high percentage of areas used for industrial settlements compared to other functions. The most of the urban territory is used for industrial settlements (51%), while 45% of the territory is occupied by residential settlements. The ARMO hydrocarbons refinery, built in an area separated from the town, is the most important productive plant in Ballshi, both in terms of produced value and employed personnel. The refinery produces about 300.000 tons of hydrocarbons every year: in terms of pollution the consequences of this activity are very considerable. Big quantities of polluted water reach the river Gjanica without being treated and emissions of H2S, SO2 and other hazardous gases pollute the atmosphere.
The following measures have been outlined in the new Plan to reduce pollution levels:

  • enhance production processes
  • reduce the polluting surface inside the refinery plant and upgrade green areas inside it
  • create a green belt to protect the area between the urbanised area and the refinery plants
  • upgrade purification of wastewaters produced by refinery plant

The majority of land in the urban area is owned by private people. State-owned lands are only those used for public services and their relevant areas. Today, the Municipality of Ballshi does not own lands where to build facilities for public services or for new sustanaible projects: this is the first problem that the Municipality and the new Plan will face.