Bulgarian court legitimizes unlawful construction in Pirin National Park



Posted on 17 January 2013  | 
A landslide in the middle of an illegal ski run in Bansko, Pirin National Park, Bulgaria
A landslide in the middle of an illegal ski run in Bansko, Pirin National Park, Bulgaria
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WWF has strongly criticized a decision by Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court, which in effect legalizes the unlawful extension of the controversial Bansko Ski Zone in Pirin National Park. Today the court dismissed an appeal by the Association of Parks in Bulgaria against the decision of the Ministry of Environment and Water, which in 2010, in violation of the management plan of Pirin National Park and the concession contract for the ski zone, approved the construction of a new chair lift in the park.

“With this decision the court not only legitimizes the violations of the concessionaire Yulen, but also condemns the National Park”, said Konstantin Ivanov, Head of Communications and Marketing at WWF in Bulgaria.

According to the Supreme Administrative Court, the ban on the construction of sports facilities in national parks does not apply to ski lifts, as they are not sporting equipment, but facilities that serve parks visitors.

“This gives a green light to the construction of ski lifts and ski runs in national parks, which is completely at odds with the notion of managing national parks”, Ivanov said. “Moreover the court states that the new ski lifts will help promote Pirin National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This shows complete disregard for the recent decision of the World Heritage Committee, according to which the construction of new ski facilities in Pirin is the main threat to the conservation of the World Heritage Site”.

WWF and the Coalition of NGOs “For the nature” begin a series of events and protests before the meeting of the Supreme Expert Environmental Council on 19 February 2013. Convened by Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova, this advisory body will consider the recent request of the Mayor of Bansko for changes in the management plan of the National Park to allow for the creation of further 20-30 km of ski runs and the construction of another gondola ski lift.

Pirin National Park was included in the List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites of UNESCO in 1983. Because of Bansko Ski Zone and the continuing attempts for its enlargement, UNESCO declared that either Bulgaria should guarantee that the construction of ski resorts in Pirin National Park will be stopped or UNESCO will designate it as a world natural heritage site in danger, which would have consequences for the image of Bulgaria.

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