In the early 40, numerous Italian scholars and academics dedicated essays on history, geography, geology, climate, demography, customs, religions, economics, agriculture and pastoralism to Albania. underground resources, the country's industry and commerce.
Among the many publications, some of which cannot be found today except in the library or in antiquarian bookshops, we would like to point out to the reader an interesting study published in the 1940 by the "Study Center for Albania", which was located at the most prestigious Italian cultural institution: the Royal Academy of Italy, today the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.
The title of the book, of which Mario Michelangeli is the author, is "The Albanian forest problem".
The aim of the scholar is to provide an updated picture (on the date of publication of the book) of the situation of forest resources in Albania and to examine the possibilities of an improvement and a solution of the problem, with a multi-year program of activities in the sector.
The author proposes general guidelines, directives that - in my opinion - would certainly still be valid today, if they were implemented with the utmost care in all countries.
The forest policy, the defense of the territory from hydrogeological instability and the safeguard of the environment are today topics of particular relevance in Italy.
We publish below some beautiful images of forests of Northern Albania, photographs taken from the book "Montagne d'Albania" by Piero Ghiglione, published in 1940.
The first chapter of the book is dedicated to the description of the physical environment of Albania, which has a land area of 27.538,47 square kilometers. It is interesting to note, due to the resulting consequences and the phenomena that occur in the Albanian coastal plains, the profound difference in orientation of the orographic systems compared to that of the coasts. The reliefs stretch out from the north-west to the south- east, while the coastal development follows the direction from north to south.
Because of this the orographic system is deeply engraved by the transversal valleys of the major waterways, facilitating on one side the communication routes from the coast within the territory, but determining - due to an extremely disorderly hydraulic regime - the swamping of the coastal plains, aggravated by the frequent flooding of the rivers, very often of a torrential nature.
This is followed by a wide dissertation dedicated to geology and hydrography, testifying to the deep knowledge of the author of the town and interesting climatic signs. In Albania two areas can be distinguished: the maritime one characterized by hot and dry summers and by mild and rainy winters; the mountain one with the characters of the continental climate, with a marked annual temperature range. Among the elements of the climate, the rainfall regime is of particular importance, placing Albania among the wettest countries in Europe.
The abundance of rain is a wealth of the country, especially in this historical period in which the "blue gold" will be more important in the future than "black gold".
The following illustrations show mountain landscapes with different types of woods.
In the Albanian relief the following main regions can be distinguished: the coast and the coastal regions; the Albanian Alps to the north; the high eastern chains; the southern and south-western chains. From the hypsometric data of the Albanian territory it can be deduced that half of the total area of Albania must be included in the mountain region, and therefore it interferes to a considerable extent in the economic situation of the country, so that the enhancement of the forest heritage takes on a prominent role . In the Albanian Alps the construction of some shelters for the first passionate climbers began in the 40 years, who had discovered the great beauty of the mountains and the alpine valleys of Albania.
After a wide examination of geology, hydrography and climatology in the country, Michelangeli focuses on economic issues closely connected with the forest economy. The study, says the author, is conducted within the limits that interest the forestry technician. Examination of the data relating to the cultural distribution of the surface of Albania highlights the enormous disproportion between the surface area of the cultivated area (9% of the land area) and the spontaneous production lands and the uncultivated lands that reach, respectively, the 24 % and the 67% of the Albanian territory: it can be deduced that the fundamental aspect of the Albanian economy is the pastoral and forestry one.
Forest-pastoral activities, and in particular pastoralism (at present - 1940 - cornerstone of the country's economic structure) due to the vastness of the surface of the national territory, the large amount of interests, the numerical size of the population that awaits it , place themselves in a leading position in the overall picture of the Albanian economy.
LEGAL LINES OF THE FOREST PROBLEM
A question of capital importance without which it is useless to expect the achievement of a permanent progress in the mountain economy is undoubtedly - the scholar maintains - to know the legal position of the wooded properties. Complex and intricate question due to the multiplicity of interests linked to the enjoyment of the income derived from the woods. The State Property Office cannot be managed rationally, when the boundaries are not defined.
The State must know precisely the properties it is called upon to administer in order to have an adequate crop and industrial management. To better illustrate the situation in those years, the book is accompanied by a map (which we reproduce at the bottom of the article) with the state forests of Albania. We now include some illustrations of forest areas in the Albanian Alps.
At the same time, the problem of the liberation of the wooded areas from the usage rights imposed on them (easement of wood and pasture in favor, for ancient custom, of the populations of mountain villages) is highlighted. In fact, there is the principle that the State, in view of local needs, is obliged to satisfy the needs of the population of mountain villages by giving up that part of the state forests that falls within a two-hour walk from the individual villages and by shares wooded area not exceeding two hectares per house. However, the lack of clarification and discipline of civic uses leads to the destruction of the woods near the inhabited areas, often subjected to uses inspired by the personal criteria of the individual.
The author carefully examines the unfavorable circumstances that led to the gradual but inexorable disappearance of the forest, which gives way to the uncultivated productive and finally to the bare rock. He listed among the causes the lack of cultivation operations, the grazing exercised in the cuttings of the coppices, the need for wood material that is covered as well as with the natural increase, even with the forest capital, for which the woods are reduced from year to year .
The following chapter lists the activities necessary for a solution, or at least an improvement, of the Albanian forest problem, through the activity of a state organization made up of specialists from the agricultural-forestry sector and - jointly - it is hoped the creation of a forest awareness .
The problem of reforestation is necessary for the unquestionable hydrogeological functions of the forest not separated from the economic ones and to favor the reclamation of the marshy areas.
Therefore, the need for the cadastral cataloging of the wooded properties of the state property, estimated (at the time) in approximately 500.000 hectares, equal to 17% of the surface of Albania, is reiterated. Appropriate measures will also be taken to protect the forest and regulate civic uses; a propaganda carried out by public institutions in order to create a forest awareness among the population; a regulation for the supply of firewood and the use of state forests. Finally, we suggest an increase in the exploitation of lignite mines, which will have to supply Albania in the future - according to Michelangeli - at least 50% of the heat requirement.
The "Forestry Week" wanted to be an initiative destined to inculcate in the young generations, who would form the ruling class of tomorrow, the love for trees and the forest, placed by nature to safeguard the mountain and the plain from the disastrous action of the waters. During the "Forestry Week", tens of thousands of seedlings were to be planted in all the centers and schools of Albania, destined to constitute the first nucleuses of future forests.
Finally, the Author lists a program of works that in his opinion would have been appropriate and necessary to carry out in the five-year period 1940-1944, with relative expenditure amounts, taking into account the real possibilities of short-term development of the forest. At the same time, the reform of the forest legislation was to be approved with provisions for financial encouragement for the improvement of mountain pastures, deteriorated forests and mountain reclamation. A similar program would be desirable had it been implemented also in Italy, where the conditions of the forest from the 1940 to today have greatly deteriorated, with the consequences of hydrogeological instability in many Italian regions that are continually highlighted by the news in the press and television.
The detailed examination of the Albanian forest problem ends with a detailed list of the most suitable species for each of the areas to be reforested due to the altitude and nature of the land. The scholar suggests - for the various regions of the country - oak plantations, black pine, abet
and Greek, beech, Aleppo pine, cypress, Turkey oak, domestic pine, poplar, silver fir and also to form numerous forest nurseries, with the formation of specialized workers.
Therefore it is also hoped a hydraulic-forest arrangement of the mountain basins, with the arrangement of the streams to give stability to the medium mountain lands. The stable structure of the high mountains will be obtained mainly with the sylvan culture, sufficient to stem the denudation of the calcareous massifs.
The book is completed by two geographical maps: the "Map of mountain reclamation" shows the areas of mountain reclamation, reforestation and hydraulic-forestry projects planned for the refurbishment of the Albanian territory. The "Map of forest properties of the Albanian state" indicates the state-owned forest properties in the various regions of Albania.
Certainly the book by Mario Michelangeli is affected by the years since it was published, but it can also be a stimulus to the reader interested in forestry and environmental studies today.
Nda: this article wants to bring to the attention of today's reader of AlbaniaNews a magazine now unavailable and that dates back to the years' 40. It is a duty of information, which the reviewer records by emphasizing the Author's arguments, to which all the historical responsibility for the content remains.
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