New UNESCO report shows "significant concern" for Pirin World Heritage Site in Bulgaria
There are new concerns in this regard in connection with the expansion of tourism zones envisaged by the new draft management plan of Pirin National Park. They would affect the World Heritage property and its buffer zone, especially in the context of climate change and the planned increased logging in the park.
The draft management plan of Pirin National Park allows for construction on an area that is 12.5-times larger than currently permitted and could lead to commercial logging affecting nearly 60 per cent of the park (currently no commercial logging is permitted in the park).
“The political and economic pressures for further development of skiing areas and logging inside Pirin National Park and the property have resulted in a draft management plan that – if approved – would lead to widespread degradation of the property,” states the IUCN report.
It also explains that the management of Pirin National Park is not in a position to confront the "strong external interests in tourism development and forest use". Poor legal enforcement strongly affects the protection and management of the site. This, together with plans to approve a new management plan which would allow significant development of tourism infrastructure, results in the overall assessment of protection and management as one of “Significant Concern”.
Pirin is a UNESCO World Heritage and an EU Natura 2000 site, home to brown bear, wolf and many endangered species, some of them endemic or unique to Europe. National laws, European nature directives and international treaties are supposed to ensure that Pirin is protected. Its diverse area is an unusual ecological refuge for hundreds of rare species including flora and fauna typical only for the Balkan region.
About the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2 Report
The IUCN World Heritage Outlook assesses, for the first time, changes in the conservation prospects of all 241 natural World Heritage sites. UNESCO has commissioned IUCN to carry out these checks to be aware of the real status of the most valuable and preserved nature in the world that is subject to protection at the highest international level.
“Natural World Heritage sites play a crucial role supporting local economies and livelihoods,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “Their destruction can thus have devastating consequences that go beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value.”
The quality and effectiveness of the management of natural World Heritage sites has dropped in since 2014, notably due to insufficient funding, according to the IUCN report. Fewer than half of the sites are currently being managed to good standards.
The full report is available online and its next edition is planned for 2020. All site assessments can be accessed at worldheritageoutlook.iucn.org