Court battle for Irakli Beach ends in triumph for Bulgarian environmentalists and civic groups
“The permit that was granted for the construction of the Riverside Village by the Regional Environment and Waters Inspectorate was completely flawed”, said Konstantin Ivanov, Head of Communications at WWF Bulgaria. “It took into consideration the environmental impact of separate buildings rather than the project in its entirety. At WWF we were quick to appeal it”.
The Supreme Administrative Court upheld the decision of the Bourgas Administrative Court from September 2011 which canceled the permit issued by the Regional Environment and Waters Inspectorate.
“This case is indicative of the serious violations committed by both the private offshore company and the local municipality, which allowed this private company to destroy part of a protected area”, Ivanov said.
The construction works in the Emine-Irakli protected area triggered European Commission infringement proceedings against Bulgaria.
The decision of the Supreme Administrative Court is final and cannot be appealed. The illegal construction, which was never completed, must now be removed and the area recultivated.
The long court battle for Irakli Beach was accompanied by persistent protests staged in Irakli and capital Sofia.
The Irakli case is emblematic for Bulgaria as in 2006, in the middle of the construction boom, an informal group of young people under the name of “Save Irakli” first opposed the destruction of this wild beach. The protests grew into a civic movement for nature protection which, with the support of expert environmental NGOs, achieved a number of significant gains in the field of nature protection. This civic movement continues to be active today, the most recent success being the removal of harmful amendments from Bulgaria’s Forest Act.