Important UNESCO decision to protect Pirin is set for adoption, but Bulgarian authorities may intervene to water it down
Commenting on the draft decision, Katerina Rakovska, WWF-Bulgaria conservation expert, said:
“We are concerned that the Bulgarian government may try to open for discussion and water down the draft decision, despite it being in line with Bulgarian and European law and international commitments. It confirms what WWF and partner NGOs have been insisting on, together with thousands of supporters of Pirin who have been taking to the streets for five months now in more than 20 cities in Bulgaria and dozens more around the world.”
Pirin is home to iconic species such as brown bears, grey wolves and the lesser spotted eagle. The natural coniferous forests shelter the 1,300-year-old endemic Bosnian Pine tree called Baykusheva mura – believed to be the oldest on the Balkan peninsula.
In March 2017, the Bulgarian environmental minister decided that the draft management plan for Pirin National Park did not require a Strategic Environmental Assessment. The plan permits construction on an area that is 12.5-times larger than currently permitted area and could lead to commercial logging affecting nearly 60 per cent of the park (currently no commercial logging is permitted in the park). Development of the plan has been financed by the EU. WWF and partners had appealed the decision in court and won at the first instance, which was welcomed by the World Heritage Centre.
“More than 125,000 people from all over the world have signed a WWF petition urging Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to send the draft plan back for a total revamp until all of the texts that threaten nature and the livelihoods of local communities are removed. WWF has repeatedly warned that the plan would jeopardize the pristine nature of Pirin and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, also protected under Bulgarian and European legislation.”
This is in line with the recent IUCN mission report requested by the World Heritage Committee which recommends a revision of the draft management plan on a number of points.
However, the future of Pirin remains uncertain, as the government pushed through dangerous amendments to the current management plan of Pirin National Park in December 2017 which open up to 48% of its territory for construction.
In January 2018, a WWF report revealed that Pirin National Park has suffered irreparable damage from the construction and expansion of Bansko ski resort. The analysis finds that the ski resort, approved by Bulgaria’s government in 2000, has also compromised Pirin’s long-term economic value and delivered a mixed economic impact to-date.