WWF turns to Bulgarian court to save Pirin National Park
The lawsuit, which was filed to the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria, is against a decision of the former Minister of Environment and Water Irina Kostova from March 2017 stating that the draft management plan for Pirin National Park does not require a Strategic Environmental Assessment.
WWF and other civic organisations appealed the decision in March, but it took 7 months for the court to consider the matter. “The court is to appoint an expert who will assess the impact of the draft management plan and will help the judges determine whether the draft management plan needs a strategic environmental assessment or not. Caretaker Minister of Environment and Water Irina Kostova took significant steps towards permitting construction in Pirin by pushing for the swift approval of the draft management plan of the national park. WWF has repeatedly warned that the plan would jeopardize the pristine nature and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site”, said Katerina Rakovska, WWF-Bulgaria conservation expert.
The draft management 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 draft management plan has been paid for by EU funds.
Pirin National Park celebrated its 55th anniversary this November. The park is protected under Bulgarian and European legislation. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the exceptional beauty of mountain scenery, glacial lakes, continuing evolution of flora. According to UNESCO, the Pirin represents an example of healthy, functioning Balkan uplands ecosystems.
Experts from different institutions, non-governmental organizations and even the Ministry of Environment and Water have already stated that the draft management plan proposed by the Bulgarian government would lower the protection of Pirin National Park. The draft plan does not comply with the Ministry’s own guidelines regarding the most important sections about the regimes and zonation of the park.
Over the past year, more than 100,000 people from all over the world have signed a petition against the plans for construction in Pirin urging Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to send back the draft plan for a total revamp until all of the texts that threaten the wild nature and livelihoods of local people are removed.