Albania has soils and a climate favorable to an extensive lumber industry. Although the postwar government invested heavily in afforestation, it developed an inefficient wood products industry. In the early 1990s, the thickest woodlands were in the central and northern mountain ranges. The country's southern half was mostly deforested, a consequence of the clear-cutting of oak trees to build the merchant ships of old Venice and Dubrovnik, the destruction of woodlands to create pastures, the burning of wood for fuel, and the expansion of villages onto hillsides. Albania's nine state forestry industry complexes produced an estimated 2.3 million cubic meters of roundwood annually between 1976 and 1988; its twenty-eight sawmills cut about 200,000 cubic meters of wood annually between 1977 and 1988. Outdated sawmills, however, wasted raw materials and were situated too far from sources of raw materials. The pulp, paper, and fiberboard industries enjoyed little competitive advantage and did considerable environmental damage. The country's high dependency on wood for heating--amounting to 100 percent of household energy needs in mountainous areas and over 90 percent in the cities in 1991--contributed to the overexploitation of forests. Unchecked cutting by people so desperate for fuel that they hacked tree stumps to below ground level caused serious damage to woodlands.
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