At the end of July, the coalition of NGOs and civic groups “For the Nature in Bulgaria” announced, along with dozens of non-governmental organizations, experts and citizens that it is for the rejection of the new draft management plan for the Pirin Mountain, developed by “Proles Engineering Ltd”.
The reasons for the rejection include the project not meeting the requirements of the assignment of the contracting authority; being prepared in a blatantly unprofessional manner – using terminology from the canceled in the 1990s regulations; neglecting processes in modern biodiversity conservation; conclusions that are not based on current scientific information; there are a number of inconsistencies in the data in different parts of the project; there is no logical connection between the results of field surveys and planned future activities in the park; the project conceals proven violations of the law committed in connection with the execution of the concession of the Bansko Ski Zone and proposes objectives, modes and activities in favor of new investments in skiing.
Argumentation for the above statements was given in the opinions of the National Museum of Natural History, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), the Bulgarian Federation of Tourism and the Bulgarian Federation of Climbing and Mountaineering, the Pirin Tourist Forum, the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism, fishing associations, 15 NGOs, professors from Sofia University, the Forestry University, BAS scientists and more than 80 other citizens. Some of the opinions exceed 50 pages. According to the coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria”, the draft plan lowers critically the standards for the preparation of management plans for protected areas and must be dismissed in its entirety since its content is not subject to editing, regardless of the opinions and the suggestions.
Despite the huge gaps and failures, the public discussion, held in Bansko on July 24, will lead to a final settlement payment for the project, while the State will lose the ability to require fulfillment of the public tender criteria in the quality and quantity described in the technical assignment. Signals for financial violations have been sent to the Ministry of Environment and Waters, but were left without response, the coalition complemented.
“Tomorrow will be Vitosha’s turn,” said Andrei Ralev from “Wildlife Society Balkans”. The same company – Proles – is currently developing the new management plan of National Park “Vitosha” and the already known information is very disturbing – the project’s documents are not provided in advance; all discussions and workshops are held in the hunting lodge of the hunting estate “Vitoshko-Studena” – a location with limited access and no public transportation. The difficult access and lack of information deprives the public of the opportunity to participate in the discussion on the future of Park “Vitosha”, the most visited protected area in Bulgaria, says Ralev.
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Presentations from previous meetings, uploaded after they were held, show significant gaps. The new plan of Vitosha is prepared without sufficient data – the field studies of the experts of Proles Engineering Ltd. are held for a very short period of time and are unfinished; there is still no data on the condition and use of forests and of the natural reserves “Bistrishko Branishte” and “Torfeno Branishte” that are subject to individual management plans. The preparation of norms and regimes without a serious descriptive part and assessment is unprofessional, is the opinion of experts of the coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria”.
The way of doing work and our experience from the process of drawing up the plan for National Park “Pirin” raise doubts about following an order different from the public one, warn experts of the coalition.
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