Guwahati: A Mother Teresa expert based in the United Kingdom has started an on-line petition for a road that will connect the world renowned nun’s native place with the rest of the world./
By: C M Paul/
“The road we propose will improve significantly the transportation infrastructure between Mother Teresa’s native city, Skopje, and Tirana,” says Gëzim Alpion, professor of Sociology at the University of Birmingham.
The Arbëri Road will provide a better link to Dibra and help advance “this part of the Balkans which suffers from poor road network,” he said and noted that the area is one of most underdeveloped regions in Albania, a southeastern European nation.
The road will also become a new vital route between Albania and Macedonia and offer Bulgaria direct access to the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Seas.
The 180-km road now existing is “tortuously long and badly managed,” noted the native of Mother Teresa’s country. According to him, the proposed 70 km road would cut down travel time and fuel consumption.
Alpion, who lives in Birmingham, is considered “the most authoritative English-language author” on Mother Teresa. His new ground-breaking book on the personal life of the Albanian nun will be published in September 2014.
He said he started the Arbëri Road online petition on March 18 “in the hope of helping Dibra, my native region, whose development means the world to me. The aim of the petition is also to draw the attention of Albanian politicians to the endemic poverty of regions like Dibra.”
He said he would shortly travel to Tirana to submit the petition to the recently elected Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama and meet with a number of high ranking officials.
Alpion left Dibra at the age of 14 to study initially in Tirana and then at the Universities of Cairo and Durham. He says he finds his roots are “still tremendously important” to him even after 37 years.
He describes Dibra as “a region of outstanding natural beauty” and its 200,000 inhabitants as “bright and hardworking but traditionally ignored by successive Albanian governments.” In his words, “Dibra, of all the regions in Albania, should not be poor if only by the fact that it is so rich in minerals.”
In the 1980s Albania ranked third in the world as chromite producer with over one million tons of annual turnover. The chromite comes from Bulqiza, which is situated in Dibra.
The Arbëri Road has apparently been a “priority” for several Albanian governments for more than 10 years. So far only an insignificant part of the road has been built, however, although the lobbying for its construction began almost 20 years ago.
“The new road will be a vital lifeline for the people of Dibra,” Alpion says.
More than 4,000 people from around the globe have signed his petition online and by completing the forms which have been prepared in accordance with Albanian law.
The petition has been widely covered by the media in Albania, Kosova, and Macedonia and the Albanian media in diaspora: the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Alpion believes that the attention that the Albanian politicians paid to the Arbëri Road during the June election shows the important role civil society can play in Albania. “Civil society is still in an embryonic stage in Albania and other former communist countries,” contends Alpion, “but the signs are encouraging.