New Illegal Activities in Vitosha Mountain Show State’s Weakness and Indifference

Protest rallies in five Bulgarian cities under the slogan "Citizens against the mafia in Pirin, Vitosha and Rila"
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The coalition of NGOs and civic groups “For the Nature in Bulgaria” and citizens are organizing protests in the capital Sofia and the cities of Plovdiv, Varna, Ruse and Pernik against the destruction and looting of the three most valuable protected mountain areas – the national parks Rila and Pirin and Vitosha Nature Park which are under the management of the Ministry of Environment and Waters (MEW) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

Yesterday, the inspection conducted by forest rangers and other State officials, and attended by environmentalists and representatives of the company “Vitosha Ski”, which holds the lifts in the Vitosha mountain, showed that in recent days more than 20 decares of forest planted with volunteer labor and seedlings purchased with European funds has been destroyed in the Vitosha Nature Park. This was one of the largest volunteer actions for afforestation with spruce at the site Mecha Polyana (Bear Meadow), which was about to be declared winner in the competition “Tree with Roots” in the category “Volunteer-afforestation” as evidence for the most serious civil volunteer involvement in the development and protection of the Vitosha Nature Park.

This lawlessness runs parallel to the “Vitosha Tulip” ski track, with a length of 400 meters and a width of about 50 meters. The perpetrators are unknown, as are the owners of three construction machines that are left standing in the field. Citizens organized a nighttime watch to prevent the secret removal of the machines.

Photos from the plowing in Vitosha Nature Park:

http://forthenature.org/gallery/446

Inspection report:

http://forthenature.org/upload/documents/2015/11/Konstativen_protokol_Vitosha_9.11.15.pdf

Protesters gather on Wednesday, November 11, 2015, at 6:30 pm in:

Sofia – the monument of Patriarch Evtimiy https://www.facebook.com/events/471454909692939/

Plovdiv – the site “The Buttons” https://www.facebook.com/events/1513298538988256/

Varna – in front of the City Hall https://www.facebook.com/events/1652528088370121/

Ruse – the City Market Hall https://www.facebook.com/events/984990641565295/

Pernik – in front of the Palace of Culture https://www.facebook.com/events/1635784656672687/

The demands of the protest:

Stop construction in Pirin and Vitosha IMMEDIATELY!

Dismissal of the Directors of Vitosha Nature Park and Pirin National Park and the other guilty parties;

Resubmit the new draft plans for management of Vitosha, Rila and Pirin for full revision;

The State to declare all construction works in the concession in the National Park as State property, as required by law. This will stop further sales by the concessionaire, as happened with lifts at the sites Shiligarnika and the Plateau;

What is happening in Vitosha Nature Park?

The new draft management plan of the Vitosha Nature Park was submitted for consideration in MEW, despite the more than 300 presented opinions, most against it. After a smear campaign in a newspaper close to infamous lawmaker Delyan Peevski, one of the employees of MAF in charge of protected areas like Vitosha Nature Park was fired.

What is happening in the Pirin National Park?

In a press release, dated November 2, 2015, MEW announced bluntly that ancient forest will be cut in the National Park to launch a new gondola ski lift in the Bansko ski zone to replace the top chair lift from Shiligarnika to the Todorka peak.

An inquiry shows that at least 57 white firs and spruces, aged 80-100 years, will be cut down. The new lift is not in the concession contract; is not foreseen in the territorial development plan and in the environmental assessment of the ski area from 2001

The permit for the replacement of the lift was granted by Environment Minister Stanislav Atanasov, who is from the same party as MP Peevski, during the term of the previous Socialist-endorsed government (Atanasov is the Minister who was exposed in lies that he had graduated in Germany – editor’s note). The permit is being appealed in court. But even if it is to be revoked as unlawful, the trees will be felled. This will be yet another proof that there is no rule of law in Bulgaria.

The Coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria” is calling on the prosecution to investigate Environment Minister Ivelina Vasileva who allowed the felling in Pirin National Park. The explanations of the Ministry that “the resulting timber will be used for restoration of tourist trails in the park” and to repair the approach to the oldest living tree in Bulgaria – the “Baykusheva” fir, which is over 1,300 years-old, are extremely ridiculous and ugly.

 

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