Bulgarian Top Ski Resort Moves to Destroy National ParkEnvironment | January 24, 2013, Thursday // 14:57| views
Bulgaria's Pirin Mountains, protected as a UNESCO World Heritage National Park, encompass extensive alpine habitats and unspoiled forests, home to a number of endemic species. Photo by Ognian Kassabov
Bulgarian winter resort town of Bansko has requested not only expanded ski facilities, but also construction permits and access regime into the Pirin National Park.
The case has provoked much controversy in Bulgaria, with environmentalists and other citizens arguing that the Bansko resort is already overdeveloped and must not go over its capacities.
In addition, the local ski operator, Yulen, which has a close to monopoly position in the resort, has been found to be already using 60% over the area for which it has an exploitation permit.
In Decemer 2012 and January 2013, Bansko residents, organized by mayor Georgi Ikonomov and supported by key Bulgarian statespersons such as Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva, held rallies requesting further expansion of facilities in their town.
They had also filed a 8,000 strong petition for the case with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev.
The Bansko municipality has now filed a formal request for a revision of the development plan for the Pirin Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The request includes not only expansion of ski facilities, but also permission for new construction and liberalized vehicles access to the park.
The proposals, which affect some 65% of the mountain's territory, are to be reviewed by Bulgaria's Council of Ministers by February 19.
Environmentalists have already held rallies in capital Sofia and elsewhere against the changes and have said they will go on.
According to them, Bansko residents and politicians alike are acting under the pressure of notorious Bulgarian businessman Tseko Minev, who controls Yulen, Vitosha Ski, the First Investment Bank, as well as serves as the chair of the Bulgarian Ski Federation.
Thursday, MEP Rebecca Harms, the Co-President of the GREENS/EFA in the EP, who is on an official visit to Sofia, said that construction in protected areas in Bulgaria needs to be inspected on the EU level.
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