A weekend trip turns into cleaning of Holta Canyon

Article by Luis Bekteshi, President of the Youth Center “Perspektiva”

This article is for all Albanians, who are the first ones to scream they are proud to be Albanians, whom are the first to honk when an Albanian team wins a football match, whom are the first ones to react when someone offends us, etc… I am not proud to be Albanian because of a football team. I am proud to be Albanian because of our culture, tradition, history and nature. When we refer to the nature, we Albanians are the ones that are truly blessed with it. We are also the ones that are ruining it. No one else but us. Here, I will tell you a short story about a short trip we had on Saturday.

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On 16th September, myself and a group of friends decided to get out of the city and enjoy the beautiful nature Albania offers. After getting some recommendations on the places to see, we finally decided to visit Holta canyons next to Gramsh. A place which was so beautiful and tragic at the same time. Beautiful because nature over there is simply stunning. Walking through the prehistorical canyons was a really beautiful experience that I highly recommend to anyone who loves nature.

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As I said before, it was tragic as well. The reason why is because people who hiked through those stunning canyons, had a picnic or spent a night with tents … left behind a whole bunch of garbage. I do not know if it was because they were lazy to clean up after themselves, or the fact that they only knew how to produce garbage. Either way it was horrible too see such a beautiful canyon being continuously destroyed by humans. The garbage was everywhere – sticking to the banks of the mountain river or filling in the caverns here and there. The deeper into the canyon we walked, the more “hidden” garbage we could see in the caves and small river pockets along its sides. It amazed me how some people found it easier to hide their garbage under the stones rather than just picking it up and dropping it to the nearest garbage bin. In this case, the garbage bins could be found only in the neighboring village and, I guess, even for those few, who could have bothered about it, it seemed too much of an effort.

20170918_123700-COLLAGEWhen we planned that trip, we wanted to take a break from our daily job, but what we saw there we could not be idle.  As no one should be idle when they see such horrors. All it would take for each one of us to enjoy the beauties that nature has to offer, would be to pick up our own garbage. Nothing more and nothing less. Clean after ourselves.

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That is when we all decided to start cleaning the canyons as we went back to our car. For that I have to thank all the people who were with me and picked up every piece of garbage that we could find. As disgusting as it was to clean the garbage after someone else, none of us regretted or stopped even for a while.

By the end of the trip, we collected that much garbage that we hardly could fit it in the car. It took us around 2 hours or so to clean the garbage that was around, but I am sure it would take less than 10 minutes for each of those “nature lovers” and “campers” to pick up their own garbage and throw it into the bins along the road on the way back. If everyone would clean after themselves, then we all could enjoy the stunning beauties that Albania has to offer without being disgusted by horrible views of garbage piles that sadly accompany most of the Albanian roads.

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If you think that it cannot get any worse, I am sorry to disappoint you again – the worst is yet to come. As we were loading the garbage in the car, we asked a man living in the village next to the canyons, where would be the closest garbage bin in which we could throw what we have gathered. His wrinkled face smiled when he kindly nodded “over there” by pointing at the river, which runs through the canyons. Shocked by the response, we started explaining the old man that we spent all day cleaning the canyon and that was exactly what we were trying to avoid.

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As we talked to him, explaining that his “over there” was one of the reasons why the canyon was so polluted, his face lost the smile. He blamed the tourists for the pollution. There is some truth to it as well, as the garbage we gathered was mostly picnic garbage. Though, I do believe that people from the nearby village of Holta are to be blamed as much as the tourists. More than that I believe that the lack of state control and care, as well as the lack of education are the key factors behind the pollution of protected areas. And yet, each one of us, as long as you consider yourself a proud Albanian, can take an action to preserve our wonderful nature.

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