Informal construction endangering the status of Lake Ohrid

Informal construction is endangering the status of Lake Ohrid causing irreparable environmental damage.
Arlis Alikaj, Ivana Nateska

This is a summary of a cross-border article published by trainees of our Investigate programme, supported by GIZ.

For several years, the non-governmental organizations that take care of the preservation of the Ohrid region have been sounding the alarm that buildings, hotels and cafes are being illegally built in the protected area around the lake. The permits without studies given from respective municipalities are threatening the heritage of Lake Ohrid.

Corruption and the arbitrary decisions of certain powerful local figures are taking place on both sides of Lake Ohrid. The city of Ohrid has only one construction inspector for the whole city, which is a very big problem to deal with all of the (400 for now) illegal buildings around the lake. Last year, the Albanian side of lake was declared a protected world heritage site for the first time, and the other part (Macedonian), which was protected as natural (1979) and cultural heritage (1980) was debated by UNESCO to be included in the list of endangered world heritage sites.

Local governments are turning a blind eye towards informal buildings, legalised in contravention of relevant laws and often connected to municipality councilors. Most interesting is that at the height of UNESCO’s warning against demolishing illegal buildings, a municipal councilor built a pizzeria within the protected area, accompanied by the mayor of Struga (a city next to Ohrid).

In Albania, companies related to politicians have built hotel complexes, which dump their waste into the lake and conduct illegal fishing activity, selling it on the market.

Lake Ohrid is facing many challenges such as lack of a regional plan of management, discordance of cross bordering cooperation and unwillingness from the local governments to change this, because of their personal benefit. 

Read the story in its Albanian publication: or in its North Macedonian publication