Durrës, 5 thousand new trees by 2022?

The Mayor of Durrës, Emirjana Sako, has confirmed the planting of 5,000 trees during 2022, as part of the ‘For a green Durrës’ initiative.  Durrës municipality for Faktoje, confirms a figure even higher than the mayor, 6336 trees within the year. But last year there was only one tender for the purchase of 3030 decorative trees at several times higher than the market price. After the verification for Faktoje, in the last days of December and the beginning of 2023, the Municipality has added posts on social networks about the planting of decorative trees.

Albina Hoxhaj

A few days before the partial local elections, at the beginning of March 2022, the candidate for mayor of Durrës Emiriana Sako promised that in three years, Durres Municipality would plant 15 thousand trees, confirming in an interview in News 24 planting 5000 trees within 2022 only:

“… This year (in 2022) this number is 5 thousand”

Based on this statement, Faktoje asked at what stage the realization of this promise is by addressing a request for information to the Durrës Municipality on October 17, 2022. In its official response, the municipality confirmed that during 2022, 6,336 trees were planted.

Further, the municipality of Durrës specified that for this number of trees, planted according to it in 2022, more than 35 million Lek including VAT were spent.

The following table made available by the municipality gives details of the 3030 trees purchased, their type and the cost per unit. The table also specifies other details such as chemical fertilizer and tree supports purchased.

The table shows that the price for a decorative tree ranges from over 6,400 ALL to 35,000 ALL (new leke).

We inquired at a business located on Durrës-Tirana highway about how much the same type of tree is sold for. Market prices according to the type of trees are listed in the following table:

Item Cost per unit Quantity Wholesale price per unit (with discount)
Magniolagrandifiora (magnolia) 3500 30 3300
Tigliatomentosa (bli in Albanian) 5500 200 5000
Aculushyppocastanum (chestnut) 700 50
Prunuscaracifera (red plum) 12000 30
Platanusorienalis (sycamore) 5500 2720 5000

A comparison of the prices paid by the municipality and those of the market shows a significant difference.

For example, while a Magnolia was bought by the municipality at the price of 25,000 new lek , in the market (without applying the discount) the same one costs 3,500 lek , almost 7 times cheaper . All types of trees purchased through the tender are priced several times higher than the market.

Regarding these data, economy specialist Pano Soko says:

“This is a flagrant case of how tenders are abused in Albania. This is how public money is abused by using fictitiously expensive prices for products that cost many times cheaper if we compare them to the market. The money that would have to be used for planting trees in the city of Durrës for the amount claimed by the municipality should be many times cheaper than the value presented by the municipality” – Soko assesses.

But beyond the salty price, it turns out that the number of trees bought during 2022 and planted is almost half of those officially declared by the Municipality, which itself lists 3030 trees in total in the list (above) sent to Faktoje.

Therefore, we addressed another request to the Durrës municipality where we asked to know details about the purchase and planting of 6336 trees.

Screenshot of the request for information sent to the Municipality of Durrës

The municipality responded only after our complaint to the commissioner, in January 2023.

According to their reply, the data on the purchase of 6336 trees were found on the app.gov.al page. From the online verification, for the year 2022 we found that only one tender was carried out for the purchase of 3030 trees in total and not 6636 as claimed by the municipality of Durrës. With these data, it is understood that these trees must have been planted from October to December 2022.

The data of the tender contract in May 2022 indicates 3030 trees

Another tender dated 18-07-2022, with a limit fund value of 1 541 50000 and with a time limit of 30 days, only provides for the purchase of pesticides and not of trees.

Contract data for the July 2022 tender, there are only purchases of pesticides

There is no explanation regarding the other 3,000 trees. But let’s assume that there were trees bought earlier. We continued the search for tenders carried out earlier for the purchase of decorative trees from the municipality of Durrës. On 26-10-2021, a tender was announced for green areas of the city, with a limited fund of 16,628,000.00 and a deadline of 30 days. The contract was signed on February 14, 2022 and foresees the purchase of 620 trees.

The contract data from the October 2021 tender mention 620 trees

With the data from these tenders, the number of trees purchased in 2021 and 2022 does not exceed 3,700 from 6,336 that the municipality confirms were planted in Durrës during the past year. During the search for tenders with the object of greenery and the purchase of decorative trees, we also found a tender opened in September 2019, while the winner was announced in August 2020, a few months after the tragic earthquake in November of that year.

The tender, without competitors, was won by “AME 2020” shpk, the former Kajmaku company. The contract data of this tender, as presented in the tables below, show the purchase of 117 trees and over 4,700 pieces of decorative shrubs, which according to plan would have been planted during 2020. How far this planting was carried out at a time Durrës was still in chaos and the solid waste had not even been removed from the devastating earthquake, this remains a question mark.

The data of the tender contract announced in August 2020, include 117 decorative trees

The data of the tender contract announced in August 2020, include 4732 decorative bushes

The total number of trees from all the aforementioned tenders is 3767 trees.

 Verification on the official page of the municipality of Durrës on Facebook

Part of the verification for this issue was also the official website of Durrës Municipality on Facebook, where the public works of this institution are regularly promoted.

It is worth noting that after insisting on getting detailed information about the number of planted trees, an increase in the number of posts on this topic is noticed.

For the entire year 2022, we identified about 33 posts showing the activities of the initiative For a Green Durrës . In most of them, information is given only about the areas and the type of trees or plants planted, but not in figures. For example, announcements about the planting of chestnut trees on “Aleksandër Goga” street, “Shoqeria Bashkimi” street, linden trees on Fetah Bllaca street, etc. are not illustrated with figures.

Only in the post dated December 30, the planting of 150 maple trees is announced on the Martyrs’ street, or on March 13, 2022, where it is indicated about the planting of 200 birch trees in Taulantia Square.

Facebook post of the Durrës Municipality, December 30, 2022

In the posts about the planting of trees sponsored by businesses or with citizen volunteering, the exact number is given, which according to our calculations, do not even reach 400 pieces in total for the year 2022.

 Field verification 

As mentioned above, in the last days of December, consecutive posts about planting trees in Durrës from the Municipality, which has received at least two requests for information regarding this issue, stand out. While waiting for the next response from this institution, we did an on-site verification in mid-December. Below is the table with the types of trees and the streets, the areas where, according to the municipality, 6336 trees were planted (answer sent in the first week of January 2023)

The list sent by the Durrës Municipality with the areas where, according to it, 6336 trees were planted in 2022

We went to the Taulantia street where the municipality says that in 2022 it has planted 200 birch trees and some pine trees. According to this institution, the decorative trees purchased with the tender announced in 2020 were also planted in this square.

Field verification at Taulantia Square shows that there are replacements and new plantings of trees. This is announced in several posts of Durrës municipality during the months of March, April, July 2022.

Taulantia Square in Durrës, December 2022

Taulantia Square in Durrës, December 2022

In mid-December, we also checked on “Aleksandër Goga” street, where the municipality says it has planted chestnut trees. There were no new trees along the entire road, except for a few replacement trees that appeared to be damaged. The other trees were clearly planted years ago.

Aleksandër Goga Street, Durrës, December 2022

Aleksandër Goga Street, Durrës, December 2022

The planting of chestnut and sturgeon trees was carried out a few days after our verification on Aleksandër Goga street according to the posts on December 19 and 27, 2022. The same thing happened on “Martyrs Street” and “Shoqeria Bashkimi” Street, for which the municipality announced through Facebook the addition of maple trees on December 30, 2022, while until that moment there were existing trees and a few replacements.

Street of Martyrs, Durrës, December 2022

“Shoqëria Bashkimi” street, December 2022

“Shoqeria Bashkimi” street, tree existing until mid-December 2022

“Shoqeria Bashkimi” street, existing trees, mid-December 2022

On the side of the “Shoqeria Bashkimi” street, in the last days of December 2022, work was being done on a green space, but the new trees had not yet been planted at the time of verification.

Another space which is claimed to be green is the flower garden in district 17. Until the end of December, there were no new trees planted and on both sides of the road, the work for its reconstruction continued.

Lagjja 17, Durrës, December 2022

On the “Fetah Bllaca” road, linden trees have been planted, while on the road parallel to the port, maple trees and decorative plants and bushes have been planted.

Trees planted on “Fetah Bllaca” street, mid-December 2022

Trees planted on the road parallel to the Port, mid-December 2022

The road from Royal Gaz to the university was not planted with any trees, while from the university to Eco Park it was planted on both sides.

The road to Eco Park, Durrës, December 2022

Royal Gaz Street, Durrës

Meanwhile, in the first and second week of January 2023, the Durrës Municipality announced the planting of 1000 trees in Taulantia Square.

What the experts say about the selected trees

After the verification that showed that in 2022, almost half of the trees confirmed by the Durrës municipality were planted, we also received the opinion of the experts regarding the type of decorative trees selected.

“We have often seen the maple tree as an ornamental plant on our streets. But it is not a wise choice. The plantain has rampant growth both in space and underground, with consequences on asphalt, pavement, foundations; it is a plant with allergic properties dur to the hair covering its leaves; it’s not some extraordinary ornamental plant!” – asserts one of the experts.

According to them, the list of types of decorative trees set to be planted in Durrës is monotonous, with few species, for a tourist town. For this reason, they suggest some other Mediterranean plants that are used in other warm places such as Durrës, to break the monotony of the coastal city, for example Palms, Ilqja (Quercus ilex) deciduous wood, typical of the Mediterranean, soft pine (Pinus pinea).

In a research article on this topic, the group of experts has made a summary of the decorative plants that they recommend to be planted, according to the table below.

The table is part of an article written by professors, experts in the field Alfred Mullaj, Petrit Hoda, Lulezim Shuka, Aleko Miho, Ferdinand Bego, Mihallaq Qirjo

“Those who have done the planning were probably scared by the damages of a few years ago, when the palm trees were damaged by the so-called long nose insect (Insect pest); and they are right, but there are other species which are resistant. Some citrus (oranges or tangerines) can be planted on a short road or playground near the Port or on the main roads,” says Professor Aleko Miho.

Experts also have reservations about the funds spent on the purchase of trees.

“They seem expensive to me. We have always insisted on country nurseries and on producing our own national plant seedlings. Maybe also for the best cost, but not only for the decorative value, resistance to diseases, adaptation to the climate, etc., says professor Aleko Miho for Faktoje.

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