Bulgarians protest against illegal construction in protected areas
Activists protest against illegal construction of ski resorts under the windows of Bulgarian presidency.
Sofia, Bulgaria – A series of protests and rallies organized by citizen groups and NGOs in Bulgaria today will demonstrate massive public support for the protection of Vitosha Nature Park and Pirin National Park. The two iconic protected areas are under threat from illegal construciton of ski runs and facilities. The events are being held in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Kazanlak.
Recently proposed changes to Bulgaria's Forest Act, which have already been approved by the Bulgarian government and are now being considered by the Bulgarian Parliament, would go against the public interest and contravene EU and Bulgarian legislation on competition as well as nature protection. They would allow for the construction of ski runs and ski facilities without changing land use. Furthermore, they would allow the acquisition of building rights on public land without tender and for an indefinite period.
Recently, famous Bulgarian actors, musicians, writers and TV presenters expressed their concern over the proposed amendments to Bulgaria’s Forest Act in a series of videos
recorded for WWF and For The Nature in Bulgaria Coalition, a coalition of more than 30 organizations.
Despite massive public opposition, the Bulgarian Parliament is about to amend four further pieces of legislation - the Concession Act, the Spatial Planning Act, the Physical Education and Sports Act and the Tourism Act - to favour persons and entities responsible for the widespread destruction of Bulgarian nature. One such person is thought to be the president of the Bulgarian Ski Federation Tseko Minev, linked by reports in the Bulgarian press to both Vitosha Ski JSC and Yulen JSC, the problematic operators of facilities in Pirin National Park and Vitosha Nature Park.
Pirin National Park
In February 2012 two starts of the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup were organized in Bansko Ski Zone where 40% of the ski runs in Pirin National Park are illegally constructed by Yulen JSC. Last week a leaked government report revealed that the Council of Ministers is taking steps to exclude 12% of the Pirin Mountain from the UNESCO World Heritage List. The aim is to allow further extension of Bansko Ski Zone and the construction of two new ski zones in the park.
Vitosha Nature Park
At the end of February 2012 the Director of Vitosha Nature Park Toma Belev was replaced through a controversial procedure, which involved changes in the application rules in order to favour the newly appointed director. Mr. Belev is known for his firm position against any illegal construction and has been actively protecting the oldest park in the Balkans for the benefit of the community. Vitosha Nature Park is one of the symbols of capital Sofia.