Shared between Macedonia and Albania, UNESCO Lake Ohrid is probably the most biodiverse inland water on Earth by surface area: Of the 1,200 plus species within its crystal waves, over 200 are found nowhere else on the entire planet. It is also one of the earliest inhabited areas of Europe with at least 6,000 years of human settlements and countless archaeological wonders.
Along Lake Ohrid’s eastern coast is another natural masterpiece: National Park Galichica, a mountain massif and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. From forested slope to rocky peak, it is an internationally acclaimed epicenter for flora and fauna, most notably butterflies and vascular plants, but also large mammals such as bears, wolves, Balkan chamois and perhaps even Balkan lynx, one of the rarest cats on the entire planet.
Yet even in this paradise, a huge danger lurks…
Both National Park Galichica and Lake Ohrid have come under sustained threat in recent years. The white-noise from human pressure is getting louder, and several experts believe we could be close to the point of no return.
Recently, a swarm of mega-projects aimed at mass tourism has been tabled from a national-park-slicing express road to a wetland-murdering accommodation complex via a massive lakeshore urbanization drive at multiple localities, not to mention a ski-resort, marina, railway and second road on the western shore.
Even individually, many of these projects risk pushing the lake and mountain over the edge. Ironically, they may also irrevocably damage the local tourism industry, which is fundamentally based on the region’s unparalleled natural resources.