05 Jan 2018

Will Bulgaria sacrifice a national park to host a skiing resort?

Over the winter holidays, many Bulgarians repeatedly took to the streets of Sofia to protest against the destruction of Pirin National Park. What is the reason for the planned lodging? The authorities want to make way for skiing.

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Will Bulgaria sacrifice a national park to host a skiing resort? - NewsMavens
Pirin National Park. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

politics, environment

The Pirin National Park, a UNESCO-protected site located in the southeast of the country, already hosts the popular Bansko ski resort, dubbed "Europe's budget ski capital".

However, environmental groups recently unearthed plans to expand skiing and logging to such an extent that they would threaten the survival of the park, which hosts Bulgaria's oldest tree and is one of Europe's best preserved homes for large mammals like the brown bear or wolf.

According to environmentalists, the plan seems to be to make the Bansko resort twelve times larger and to allow commercial logging on nearly 60% of the park.

Since the fall of communism, successive Bulgarian governments have been quick to sacrifice pristine natural sites to make way for large-scale tourism or infrastructure development.

Protests of environmentalists aimed at protecting mountains or beaches from tourism development have been some of the first manifestations of civic activism in post-communist Bulgaria, seeding the roots for major protests against corruption in the country that took place in the 2000s.

That so many people walked away from their Christmas meals to protest against the destruction of Pirin comes as no surprise in this context. There's a tradition of civic activism to protect nature and people smelt a stench of corruption in how the destruction of the park was planned.

Details from the story:

  • Environmental group WWF Bulgaria unearthed documents that reveal plans to expand the Bansko ski resort in such a way as to threaten severely the Pirin National Park, a UNESCO-protected site.
  • The documents reveal the investors' intention to build 333 km of new slopes and 113 km of ski lifts.
  • The resort might be expanded to 12 times its recent size and commercial logging might be allowed on 60% of the surface of the park.
  • The Pirin National Park is one of Europe’s best preserved homes for large mammals such as the brown bears and wolves. It hosts century-old forests.
  • Bulgaria, which starts its presidency of the EU this month, can expect troubles with Brussels as two Natura 2000 sites (Natura 2000 is the European Union's network of protected natural sites) are located in the park.
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