Residents of Zharrez village, in Patos Municipality, have chosen an extreme action to highlight their plight. On February 21, they started marching towards the capital city, Tirana, in an almost marathon-like journey. This escalation of measures against the government comes after a strike that lasted for more than 20 days and, according to them, the government did not lend an ear to their demands. The village residents have been suffering earth shaking tremors for years now, incidents which have destroyed their homes and in most cases are treated as light earthquakes. But the residents are convinced that the tremors come from explosions caused by Bankers Petroleum company in this area. The truth is that tremors are quite common in the region and may occur up to 3-4 times a day. Such proof was expected to be uncovered and accepted by the government as the official cause of the so-called earthquakes. Residents themselves claim that over 130 houses have been destroyed, putting their lives and their children lives at risk. They started their strike last December, but interrupted the work stoppage as a result of the promises made by the government to resolve their situation.
Their marathon journey to Tirana proceeds along the main highway. During the night they sleep in improvised tents by the side of the road. The residents marching towards Tirana are of different ages, but most of the people seeking a solution in such a way are young. Residents also complain of air and drinking water pollution, seriously endangering their lives. People are afraid to sleep in their homes as a result of the many cracks their houses have suffered from the tremors, fearing they might collapse at any moment. At a meeting in Patos Municipality, the Mayor Rajmonda Balili made public data from a survey performed in the area. Even the vice-Minister of Energy, Ilir Bejtja, was present at the meeting. According to the data, within three months, there have been 2766 tremors in the village. The mayor said they are verifying damage caused and preparing estimates for indemnification of 500 houses.
The report was also signed by Deputy Prime Minister, Niko Peleshi, vice-Ministers Bejtja and Cipa, as well as a considerable number of experts from the Ministry of Environment, Energy, and also from the State Advocacy. During this period, the government has banned Bankers Petroleum’s injection of fracking fluids in the limestone wells. After this measure, residents have observed much less earth tremors in the area. The report claims that there have been 276 recorded seismic events from 24 September 2016 to 27 December 2016. According to this data, experts have concluded that the tremors are caused by the activity of Bankers Petroleum company. Vice-Minister Bejtja has asked residents to stop their march towards the capital and return to their homes, because the government is doing everything to fulfil their demands. He said that some of the people are being manipulated politically. On the other hand, residents have not identified themselves as affiliated to any political party and have repeatedly claimed that they only seek their rights for a safer life. Fracking fluid injection into wells located near Zharrez village has been terminated, by order of the Minister of Energy Damian Gjiknuri, since 26 December 2016.