CrisisWatch

UNESCO nature parks in Bulgaria threatened by excessive development

Three of Bulgaria’s most significant natural treasures, the parks of Pirin, Rila and Vitosha, are on the verge of opening up to excessive construction development: the draft management plans placed in public consultation in October 2015 allow construction, logging and hunting in zones that are presently protected by law.

According to a coalition of environmental groups, the draft plans have not been subjected to the scrutiny of an environmental impact assessment, quote obsolete legislation, and are based on problematic data. The main pressure for excessive construction development in these protected mountains are investment plans for the expansion of ski resorts and other mountainous intensive tourism activities.

According to WWF: “Pirin National Park was declared a World Heritage site in 1983. In 2010, UNESCO excluded the ski areas above Bansko and Dobrinishte from the World Heritage list because it found their nature irrevocably damaged and urbanized by ski development.

In July 2015, the Bulgarian ministries of tourism and sports asked UNESCO to exclude an additional 10% of the park from the World Heritage list in order to allow for further ski development. In his response, the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre Mr Kishore Rao said that Bulgaria can develop tourism anywhere outside the UNESCO site. He also called the new draft management plan for Pirin unacceptable: it included no adequate environmental assessments and lacked crucial data.

The ministries of tourism and sports have long lobbied for the expansion of the Bansko ski zone to other parts of Pirin National Park. At the moment, this is still prohibited by the Protected Areas Act and the park’s current management plan.

The draft plan for Pirin was developed by a company that also developed the plan for Vitosha Nature Park. The company envisions increasing the area of construction over 120 times -- from 219 hectares to 26,558 hectares. This is 65% of the park’s territory.

In July 2015, the coalition of NGOs and civil organizations "For the Nature in Bulgaria" that WWF belongs to, as well as dozens of other NGOs, experts and citizens, publicly denounced the draft plan.”

Read more: WWF

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