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The Independent: Attempt to Turn Bulgarian National Park into Ski Resort Defeated in Court

Business | January 19, 2019, Saturday // 13:40|  views

Environmentalists have achieved a major victory after a court battle to stop a Bulgarian national park being turned into a ski resort, reported the Independent. 

Bulgaria’s top court ruled that Pirin National Park, a world heritage site and home to bears and wolves, must be protected from development.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, reverses controversial changes made by the government at the end of 2017 that would have opened up half the park to construction and logging.

This left thousands of acres of pine forest and mountain vulnerable to the expansion of the Bansko ski resort, which is already the country’s largest.

A letter sent on behalf of Bansko resort as part of a public consultation outlined plans to roughly quadruple the length of runs and ski lifts in the park.

However, the move faced bitter opposition from local and international groups, who formed the For the Nature coalition to fight back against the government’s plans.

“We expect the push to construct in Pirin to continue in the future but in the meantime we will be working with local communities to ensure they can benefit from one of Europe’s most special places in a sustainable manner.”

The court based its ruling on laws governing protected areas that “allow only maintenance, not the building of new sports facilities in the national parks“.

Bulgarian and EU laws also require the environment ministry to subject such plans to impact assessments, which had not been undertaken for Pirin.

Despite the environmental backlash, local Bansko residents had largely favoured the proposed expansion as the resort is the largest employer in the region.

 UNESCO recognised Pirin as a world heritage site in 1983, but in 2010 the organisation decided to downgrade the areas that had been converted into ski resorts after swathes of ancient forests were cleared.

A 2018 report by WWF confirmed that “irreversible” damage had been done to the region as the Bansko resort had expanded.

After the government’s initial move to open the area to further development rallies were held calling for the resignation of Neno Dimov, Bulgaria’s environment minister. The same calls came on Wednesday in the wake of the ruling.

The minister has previously faced criticism due to his stance on global warming, which he has previously described as a “fraud … used to scare the people”. 


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Tags: Pirin, envrironment, UNESCO, Bansko, ski resort, court, Bulgaria, safe pirin, WWF, court


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