Bulgarian government must ensure plans for Pirin are environmentally assessed | WWF

Bulgarian government must ensure plans for Pirin are environmentally assessed

Posted on 29 May 2018    
The forest of Pirin shelters the oldest tree in the Balkans - the Baikusheva mura
© Александър Иванов
SOFIA/PARIS, 29 May 2018 – The UNESCO World Heritage Centre has issued a draft decision on Pirin in which it requests the Bulgarian government to ensure that a full strategic environmental assessment for the new management plan of Pirin National Park is undertaken as a matter of priority. The government is asked also not implement the December 2017 amendments to the current management plan and refrain from introducing any new amendments. The decision is set to be approved at the World Heritage Committee at the end of June 2018 in Bahrain.

Responding to the draft decision, Katerina Rakovska, WWF-Bulgaria conservation expert, said:
“We welcome the draft decision as it is in line with Bulgarian and European law and international commitments. It confirms what WWF and partner NGOs have been insisting on, together with our supporters who have been taking to the streets for five months now in more than 20 cities in Bulgaria and dozens more around the world. We are concerned, however, that the government may try to water down the draft decision before it is set for adoption at the World Heritage Committee in June 2018.”

Pirin is home to iconic species such as brown bears, grey wolves and the lesser spotted eagle. The natural coniferous forests shelter the 1,300 year-old endemic Bosnian Pine tree called Baykusheva mura – believed to be the oldest on the Balkan peninsula.

In March 2017, the Bulgarian environmental minister decided that the draft management plan for Pirin National Park did not require a Strategic Environmental Assessment. The 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 plan has been financed by the EU. WWF and partners had appealed the decision in court and won at the first instance, which was welcomed by the World Heritage Centre.

Rakovska added:
More than 125,000 people from all over the world have signed a WWF petition urging Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to send the draft plan back for a total revamp until all of the texts that threaten nature and livelihoods of local communities are removed. WWF has repeatedly warned that the plan would jeopardize the pristine nature of Pirin and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, also protected under Bulgarian and European legislation.”

This is in line with the newly released IUCN mission report requested by the World Heritage Committee which recommends a revision of the draft management plan.

However, the future of Pirin remains uncertain, as the government pushed through dangerous amendments to the current management plan of Pirin National Park in December 2017 which open up to 48% of its territory for construction.

In January 2018, a WWF report revealed that Pirin National Park has suffered irreparable damage from the construction and expansion of Bansko ski resort. The analysis finds that the ski resort, approved by Bulgaria’s government in 2000, has also compromised Pirin’s long-term economic value and delivered a mixed economic impact to-date.
The forest of Pirin shelters the oldest tree in the Balkans - the Baikusheva mura
© Александър Иванов Enlarge
Heavy machines working in Pirin National Park. Work of heavy machines is forbidden in national parks by law.
© Toma Belev Enlarge
Protesters carry umbrellas, a symbol of the political umbrella over Bansko Ski Zone.
Protesters carry umbrellas, a symbol of the political umbrella over Bansko Ski Zone.
© WWF Enlarge

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