The Guardian: Construction of Motorway Threatens Wildlife in Bulgaria's Kresna Gorge

Views on BG | February 17, 2016, Wednesday // 12:58|  views

Kresna gorge. Photo: BGNES

In an article published in The Guardian on Wednesday, Arthur Neslen, focuses on the construction of the Struma motorway in southwestern Bulgaria which is potentially threatening the wildlife in the Kresna gorge.

The area is one of the most valuable wildlife conversation sites in Europe, being a habitat for golden eagles, griffon vultures, peregrine falcons and a crucial migratory path for bears, wolves and jackals.

According to environmentalists, the gorge boasts 122 butterfly species in one square kilometre and there are 3500 species of flora and fauna in total, with many snakes, turtles and bats found only in Europe.

At the same time, it is an important link between Germany and Greece, being vital for the region developing its tourism, trade and transport.

The EU is offering EUR 673 M in grants for construction of the motorway until 2020.

Initial plans foresaw that an underground tunnel will be constructed through the area, but this option seems to have been scrapped.

Local people fear this will result in “desertification” of their villages and demographic crisis with many of the young people forced to emigrate, while conservationists are afraid that the motorway will devastate the lives of birds, bats, tortoises and large mammals.

According to the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, the motorway will result in bird mortality increasing ten times.

The project foresees the construction of eleven bridges, eleven overpasses, seven dual tube tunnels, 59 mostly concrete fortification walls and ten supported slopes.

The existing through road was constructed by the Nazis and follows a Roman path.

The EU has offered BGN 1 B in grants on the condition that a long underground tunnel is built.

However Bulgarian authorities have come to the conclusion that a tunnel is “impossible” and authorities are now finalising alternative environmental risk papers, which are to be launched in two months.

According to the article, the study is to state that the tunnel poses environmental danger to the area due to risks of earthquakes, high levels of underground uranium, soil disposal issues and the depletion of water tables.

Moreover, the construction of the tunnel would be too expensive, with estimates suggesting that EUR 7 M will be needed to service it a year.

The route has been controversial ever since its proposal in 1997 and construction around the gorge has been postponed, with building concentrating towards the gorge from the north and the south.

The article concludes by highlighting the need to find a balance between the long-term environmental impact of the motorway and its short-term economic benefits.

Read the full article here.

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Tags: Bulgaria, Struma motorway, tunnel, EU, environment, wildlife


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