Media

May 26, 2012
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Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar. Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods.
Mar 19, 2012
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Bulgarian environmentalist staged once again Saturday a protest rally against looming amendments to the Forestry Act.

The march was organized by the coalition of NGOs, known as "For Keeping Nature in Bulgaria" with the support of other civic organizations. Rallies are also held in the cities of Plovdiv and Burgas.
Mar 09, 2012
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SOFIA — Alpine Skiing World Cup events in Bulgaria's southern resort of Bansko use illegal ski runs and break international regulations, a coalition of nature groups said Friday.

"With close to 40 percent of the ski runs in Bansko being illegally built and operated, many fear this event has cast a shadow over the reputation of the FIS (International Ski Federation)," the For The Nature group said in a statement.
Mar 09, 2012
50
A group representing more than 30, mostly environmental organisations, including the WWF, has issued a statement questioning the FIS decision to stage the second Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Bansko, Bulgaria this weekend when, “…citizen groups and NGOs are concerned that the operator of Bansko Ski Zone has persistently violated Bulgarian and international environmental legislation and FIS regulations. With close to 40% of the ski runs in Bansko being illegally built and operated, many fear this event has cast a shadow over FIS reputation.”
Jan. 12, 2012
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On Saturday, January 14, Bulgarians will go on nationwide protests in various cities throughout the country. In addition, it is confirmed that protests will be supported by Bulgarian expatriates in many other major European cities, among which: London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Atina, Paris and others.
Sep. 01, 2010
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24 August 2010: Environmentalists have called on the EU to take action against widespread destruction of protected natural habitats in Bulgaria caused by the construction of tourist resorts, golf courses and ski slopes, sand and gravel extraction and intensive wood production. Without action, they warn, the situation could be repeated in Romania and future EU member states.
Jun 16, 2010
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ON AN aptly damp day in the Rhodope mountains southwest of Sofia, with the tall trees all around us dripping wet, we stood at the grave of James Bourchier on a hill just above the spectacular fortress monastery of Rila as Geoffrey Keating, Ireland’s Ambassador to Bulgaria, reminded us why we were there.
Can you be a green skier?
Mar 24, 2010
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Skiers are accused of destroying the very wilderness they love. We asked two experts for their views on the sport's impact, and got two very different responses
Dnevnik newspaper: Almost all Bulgarians have a positive attitude to Natura 2000
Mar 04, 2010
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Almost all Bulgarians (94%) have a positive attitude to the ecological network Natura 2000, but half of them don't know that there are protected zones near the place where they live despite the fact that the place falls within a zone from the network.

These are the results from a survey done by the National Center for Surveying Public Opinion on behalf of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. The survey includes 1000 interviews. Almost half of the interviewed think that the nongovernmental organizations have an important role in preserving nature.
Feb. 04, 2010
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To implement prohibition of the change of purpose of the agricultural lands along the Black Sea coast and thus practically to limit the chaotic construction activities along the shore. This is what the MPs decided in the National Assembly. The project was adopted unanimously with 11 deputies abstained.
Plans for new skiing areas in the region around the Carpathian Mountains and the Balkans threaten to harm major protected areas that house some of Europe’s last remaining untouched wilderness.

New developments and expansion plans for existing facilities for downhill skiing are in the works across many parts of the region, particularly in Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Ukraine.

In theory, potential conflicts between nature conservation and development – including for ski tourism – should be mediated by procedures such as Environmental Impact Assessments and the European Union’s Article 6 of the Habitats Directive, which provide a system for evaluating potential impacts on nature and identifying solutions and measures to mitigate negative impacts. ...
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14.3.2009, Sydney Morning Herald:

The Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, set aside his briefs for an evening on Thursday and shrieked out - largely unrehearsed - a goodly selection of his old hits at the National Convention Centre in Canberra.

If only we had such ministers here in Bulgaria...
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ENVIRONMENT: Bulgaria Going Down a Slippery Slope
By Claudia Ciobanu

BUCHAREST, Mar 3 (IPS) - The World Ski Cup for women last weekend was
organised in Bulgaria at a ski resort whose development is partially
illegal, and which is damaging a world heritage site.

A report published by the Save Pirin Coalition and endorsed by several
environmental organisations in Bulgaria claims that the development of the
Bansko Ski Zone has severely damaged the Pirin National Park, one of the
two United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(UNESCO) world heritage sites located in Bulgaria. Bansko is a recently
expanded and modernised ski resort in south-western Bulgaria, 160 km from
capital Sofia in the Pirin mountains.

Measurements made by experts from Save Pirin, and information provided by
the management of the Pirin Park show that construction has been carried
out on 247 hectares of land instead of the 99 hectares for which the
developers received authorisation from the Bulgarian Ministry of
Environment and Water in 2001. Furthermore, Save Pirin claims that
environmental impact assessment agreements have been breached.

The authors of the report argue that around 1,000 hectares have been
modified for construction of ski slopes and associated transport and
living infrastructure. Intense excavation and massive deforestation have
led to the washing away of soil layers and the emergence of huge crevices.
Natural habitat has been fragmented, and species like the brown bear have
been driven from their usual locations.

Asked whether they had looked into environmentalists" claims of
illegalities when choosing Bansko as a location for the world cup,
International Ski Federation (FIS) representative Riika Rakic told IPS
that "the FIS helped the Bulgarian Ski Association and the local
organisers at the resort engage an environmental advisor to assess the
situation and develop long-term strategies in this area."

Suspicions of past illegalities did not affect the choice of location
because "FIS relies on its members to ensure that they respect and comply
with all national regulations and legislations in all their activities."

The development has been controversial for some time. The European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was earlier an investor in
Bansko; it owned a share in the Bulgarian First Investment Bank, the
institution which coordinated all investments in Bansko. But after
complaints from environmentalists and from UNESCO, EBRD sold its share in
the First Investment Bank in December 2006.

The Bulgarian Ski Association, the FIS partner in charge of the Bansko
event, is run by Tseko Minev, who is also the main shareholder in the
Bulgarian First Investment Bank.

Minev, who was in 2007 the third richest man in Bulgaria, has repeatedly
expressed support for development of another ski resort in the Vitosha
National Park, close to capital Sofia. Bulgaria hopes to organise the
Winter Olympics in the next decade, and Vitosha would be needed to
complement the facilities in Bansko.

Development of the Vitosha Ski resort has been marred by controversy from
the outset. "The Vitosha Ski Company is 90 percent owned by an offshore
company, Elora Management Ltd, registered on the British Virgin Islands,
and one of the serious problems is that it is completely unclear who is
behind the company and what is the source of the money," Katerina Rakovska
from the World Wildlife Fund Danube Carpathian Programme (WWFDCP) told
IPS. "As we all know, lack of transparency is the mother of corruption."

As the skiers in the Friday race were sliding down the slopes of Bansko,
the centre of Sofia was filling up with people protesting the decision to
fire three directors of national parks (Vitosha, Strandja and Vrachanski
Balkan). On Friday morning, Bulgarian media had quoted an opposition claim
that the directors would be fired soon because of their resistance to
construction in the parks.

Many Bulgarians were excited over the skiing event, in the categories of
downhill and Super G (super-giant) in the 2009 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup;
the country has not been on the world ski cups schedule since 1984. The
organisation of the cup was indication that the country is able to offer
up to standard tourism and sports facilities.

Tourism has traditionally played a major role in Bulgarian development.
Before 1989, the Black Sea coast was a popular destination for summer
tourists from countries east of the Berlin Wall, gaining it the nickname
"the Red Riviera". Post-socialist governments have continued to focus on
tourism infrastructure development, both on the coast and in the
mountains. With prices still low for Western tourists, Bulgaria was able
to attract close to two million foreign visitors in just the first half of
2008 (Bulgaria"s own population is seven million).

The cash inflows from the tourism industry are certainly welcome for
Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union. Bulgarians themselves
enjoy the new opportunities for sports and entertainment, although prices
in resorts like Bansko are too high for many.

The Bulgarian Ski Federation is currently training 3,000 Bulgarian
children free of charge, in an attempt to popularise the sport and breed
future champions. No Bulgarian woman has yet won a World Cup event.

But Bulgarian environmentalists are now worried by the environmental cost
of these plans. Far from trying to contain the damage, they fear
developers in Bansko will continue to expand their reach inside the
National Parks. (END/2009)
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12 December 2008: Europe"s rich patchwork of protected flora and fauna grew further today with a major extension of Natura 2000, the EU"s network of protected natural areas. The additions include 769 new sites and a total area of 95,522 km2. Most of the sites are in the newer Member States. Romania and Bulgaria have now added areas to the network for the first time, including areas along the Black Sea that are home to numerous varieties of rare and threatened plants and animals. Natura 2000 now includes around 25,000 sites, covering almost 20% of the EU’s landmass, making it the largest interconnected network of protected areas in the world. It is the EU"s key weapon in the fight against biodiversity loss.
BlueLink: Action against poaching and illegal trade in protected species
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On Sunday, November 23rd, 2008, inspection against poaching and illegal trade in protected species was carried out in the area of the Russian market in the town of Plovdiv. The action was organized by Green Balkans and the 3rd Regional Police Department in Plovdiv, as well as representatives of Plovdiv Municipality and Central Region Administration.

The inspection revealed sale of numerous protected songbirds of the following species: Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), Siskin (Carduelis spinus), and Linnet (Acanthis cannabina). The protected birds were exposed in cages and offered for sale together with canaries, parrots, and other domestic animals. During the inspection none of the people standing near the cages with sold birds admitting being owners of the cages or the wild birds. As a result, more than 70 individuals of the protected species listed above were released right on the spot, and more than 15 cages were destroyed before lots of citizens who witnessed the inspection.

Green Balkans thanks all those who took part in the action, and the officials of 3rd Regional Police Department in particular, for their competent timely assistance!

We would like to remind that the above-listed species are included in the Biological Diversity Act, and according to Art. 38 thereof, catching, keeping, exposing publicly, transporting, and selling these species is prohibited.

Catching and selling of protected birds in the town of Plovdiv and its vicinities recurs every fall and winter, when songbirds gather in flocks. In 2001, on Green Balkans’ initiative, a Working Group against poaching and illegal trade in protected species was established to act in the area of Plovdiv. The group involved representatives of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters, Regional Forest Board, Regional Service for Veterinary Medicine, the Municipalities of Plovdiv and Asenovgrad, the Police, the Hunters and Anglers’ Union, etc. The group carries out annual inspections against catching and selling of protected species. Despite all, poaching of songbirds continues. This calls for the implementation of more frequent inspections in catching areas, and mainly around the Russian market – the usual place for illegal trade.

For more information please contact:
Gradimir Gradev
Tel: +359 887210094
E-mail: ggradev@greenbalkans.org

Further information on the illegal trade in songbirds is available at [url">http://greenbalkans.org/show.php?language=en_EN&cat_id=88&id=302&