Although only the size of Wales or the state of Maryland, Albania is notable for the beauty and variety of its natural landscapes (Figure 12.1). The country's mean altitude of 708m is twice the European average. Varied relief and climatic conditions, significant water and mineral reserves, a diversity of fauna and flora, and often stunning Ionian and Adriatic coasts characterize one of the hitherto lesser-known corners of Europe. Environmental pressures from economic exploitation and development were relatively low prior to the Second World War, although reclamation of some of the mosquito-infested lowland wetlands had begun.
Pre-war industry was restricted in scale, scope and location. With no large industrial establishments, processing and manufacturing was little more than a cottage industry. Eighty-eight per cent of all industrial enterprises employed fewer than fifteen workers, and by 1938 only 4.5 per cent of national income was derived from industry (Prifti 1978, p.52). It was mostly limited to food processing, with nine diesel-powered modern flour mills, two olive oil refineries (Elbasan, Vlora), a fish-preserving plant at Shkodra, a brewery (at Korça, built by the Italians) and four raki distilleries. Tobacco processing was also undertaken and cigarette manufacture took place at Durrës, Shkodra, Elbasan, Berat and Vlora, each of which also contained a soap factory. Building materials were represented by brickworks at Elbasan, Korça and Tirana, and cement plants at Shkodra and Elbasan, the latter begun in 1940. In all cases, manufacturing was limited to domestic requirements and was concentrated in a handful of towns. Power was usually provided by internal-combustion diesel engines, except for a small hydroelectric plant serving Korça. Two Italian companies provided electric lighting for Tirana and Durrës.
Oil was first raised in 1918, and by the end of the 1930s exploration and development of some 400 wells was largely under Italian auspices. The crude was piped to the coast near Vlora for direct export to Italy. The capacity of the pipeline was said to be 5000 barrels a day in 1937, and special wharves were constructed to handle two million barrels p.a. The first shipment took place in 1935. Just as there was no oil refining capacity, so too Albania possessed no