Bansko ski area in Pirin National Park

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Bansko ski area in Pirin National Park

Pirin National Park is one of the three national parks in Bulgaria. Unique natural resources like more than 120 years old coniferous forests, including the oldest tree on the Balkan Peninsula – so-called Baikusheva mura (Bosnyan pine), the Wonder tree at Troyanska meadow, ancient Macedonian pine called Candlesticks in the region Bjala reka (White river), the old-growth beach forests, the rare edelweiss and the remarkable natural formations, which Pirin possesses make the case for its preservation for the country as well as for the world.

On October 15, 1999, the Ministry of the Environment and Water performs a recategorisation of Pirin Natural Park into National Park, with an area of 40,356 hectares. In 1999 is established Pirin National Park Directorate in the town of Bansko, which is responsible for the protected territory.

On March 2, 2007 Pirin National Park becomes part of European ecological network Natura 2000 as per the two Directives of the European Union – Directive 92/43/EEC, on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (known in short as the Habitats Directive), and Directive 79/409/ЕЕС, on the conservation of wild birds (known as the Birds Directive).


Last update: April 2016
For a detailed review of the case for the development of Bansko ski zone and the activities of civil institutions and persons for protection of Pirin National Park, you can read here: http://forthenature.org/upload/documents/2016/05/Pirin_istoriya.pdf
The story in short is presented below.

 

Threats
Pirin National Park with its unique nature is one of most coveted protected territories for realizing investments related to ski sports in Bulgaria. The first steps towards annihilating Pirin’s natural resources are made in the year of 2000 with the adoption of the Territorial Management Plan (TMP) of ski zone with center the town of Bansko, which envisages considerable extension of the existing ski runs and facilities in Pirin National Park. This puts the preservation of the National Park under threat. In the period 2004-2016, in addition to the implementation of the TMP of a ski zone with center the town of Bansko, additional construction works take place within the boundaries of Pirin National Park. A significant area of Pirin National Park is damaged with the construction of the ski runs “Platoto 1” (north of the ski drag Platoto-Todorka), “Chalin valog 2 - West, the ski lifts “Banderishka polyana-Kolarski pat” (6-seat lift) and “Platoto-Todorka (4-seat lift), ski runs “Shiligarnika 2” and “Strazhite”, as well as ski lift “Zhelezen most-Platoto” (4-seat lift), ski runs Bansko, Banderitsa, Balkaniada, Shiligarnika 1, Yulen, Tomba, Platoto 2, Chalin Valog 1, without observing the requirements on width and minimal excavation works in the licenses issued by the Ministry of the Environment and Water and regarding the Environment Impact Assessment in the period 2000-2010, in violation of the Management Plan of Pirin National Park, the Concession Contract and the TMP of ski zone with center the town of Bansko. Therefore, during the period 2004-2016 environmentalists notify the relevant State institutions, the European Commission and UNESCO.

Institutions’ response
In 2010, during its 34th session in Brasil, UNESCO issues a decision in which states its misgivings regarding the extension of the capacity realized through two ski facilities within the buffer zones of the site. It concludes that any further development of facilities for ski and ski runs or adjacent infrastructure within the boundaries of the site or its buffer zones shall have the site recorded in the list of the World Heritage in Danger.

In February 2013, with a decision of the Supreme Expert Environmental Council of Bulgaria (SEEC) of the Ministry of Environment and Water is approved Bansko Municipality’s request for legalizing what has been built outside of the concession in ski zone with center the town of Bansko, and opens the door for new construction in Pirin National Park.

A few months later, in April 2013, an audit on ski zone with center the town of Bansko in Pirin National Park by the National Audit Office is published, which proves the following:
- during the period 2001-2013 the State did not exercise control on what was happening in ski zone with center the town of Bansko;
- there is no established system for control on the concession at the Ministry of the Environment and Water, which to give timely information on the actual observance of the concession contract;
- the control on the contract is not structured in accordance with the requirements of the Concessions Act
- during the period 2009-2011, the Regional Inspectorate on the Environment and Water – Blagoevgrad exercised control on the activity of the concessionaire in accordance with the respective laws by components and factors of the environment. As a result, six penal rulings were issued against Yulen AD for violations of the Waste Management Act, Water Act, and Environment Protection Act.
- at Bansko Municipality there is no appointed person for exercising control as per the Protected Territories Act and the observance of the concession contract with Yulen AD.

In 2013, following a signal from environmentalists, EU Commission initiates an investigation into the procedure for amendment of the Management Plan of Pirin National Park, which is requested by Bansko Municipality.


As a result of multiple signals, sent by citizens and non-governmental organizations in 2010, at its 34th session in Brasil, UNESCO issues a decision stating that the construction of a new ski zone with center the town of Bansko has seriously damaged Pirin’s natural world heritage, and that at next such violation Pirin National Park will be placed in the list of World Heritage in Danger.
However, UNESCO’s decision from 2014 does not put an end to construction intentions in Pirin National Park, and then-Minister of the Environment and Water Stanislav Anastasov allows the construction of a new 6-seat lift in the place of the 3-seat lift Todorka by the offshore Marengo Trading, which is not concessionaire of ski zone with center the town of Bansko. The new lift does not figure in the concession of ski zone with center the town of Bansko, in the TMP and DDP of the National Park, and there is no license of the Eco-Ministry for widening of the cutting in the forest with the logging of 88 old-growth trees. As a result, in 2015, five citizens file complaints in the Supreme Administrative Court calling for an end to the destruction of the protected area.

New Plan for Management of Pirin

At the same time, the new Plan for Management of Pirin National Park is developed, for the timeframe 2014-2023, which does not guarantee the protection of the natural state of nature in the Park, nor the restriction of minimum human impact on natural habitat, and even is envisaged an opportunity for logging in the park and for removing the restrictions upon new construction. The plan is still in the phase of development.

In 2016, a meeting hosted by the Ministry of Tourism on finding a consensus decision on the concession of ski zone with center the town of Bansko in Pirin National Park takes place. No consensus is reached, and therefore the Ministry of the Environment and Water decides to form working groups on the issues regarding the concession in Pirin National Park.

During the period 2000-2016, in relation to the State’s inaction on issues related to the impairment of nature in Pirin National Park are conducted 50 protests in 20 Bulgarian, and 3 petitions for protection of Pirin are initiated. More than 100 signals are sent, appeals against the construction of new ski lifts and facilities in Pirin National Park. In 2015 citizens are encouraged to participate in the development of the Management Plan of Pirin National Park for the period 2014-2023, and 425 opinions are submitted.

The information is updated as of April 2016, and is supported by the project “Participation for Nature”, which is funded within the framework of the NGO Program in Bulgaria under the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism 2009-2014. The project is implemented by Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation in partnership with Za Zemyata Environmental Association and BlueLink Civil Action Network.