Sofia, February 6, 2015 – The coalition of NGOs and civic groups “For Nature in Bulgaria” explained at a press conference that the support of individual Ministers for the request of the municipality of Bansko for construction of a second cabin lift and new ski runs in Pirin National Park is in full violation of the Bulgarian and European legislation and of the recommendations of UNESCO, and the second lift does not solve the problems of ski tourism in Bansko, although there are more meaningful alternatives.

Participants in the press conference included Andrei Ralev from the Wildlife Society “Balkans”, Alexander Dunchev from WWF, Vera Staevska from “Green Laws”, Kiril Kaloyanov from the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism (BAAT), Martina Popova from “Transparent Mountains”, Stefan Avramov and Petko Tsvetkov from the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation.

The environmentalists insisted:

– The Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW) as contractor of the project, financing the development of the Management Plan of Pirin National Park, to suspend its implementation and to ask the Park Director to submit the necessary documentation to evaluate the need of environmental assessment impact and of conducting an eligibility check, mandatory under the Protected Areas Act (PAA) and the Biological Diversity Act (BDA), and to avoid the provision of State aid to the concessionaire of the Bansko ski zone “Yulen” and of “GlavBulgarStroy”;

– To hold a public hearing with online broadcast of the Parliamentary Committee on issues related to the concession of the Bansko ski area. The Committee has a work deadline of February 15, 2015;

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– To have a real debate about the development of tourism in Bulgaria and alternative forms, outside ski sports, especially in the context of the forthcoming work on management plans for the National Park Rila and Vitosha Nature Park because of high public interest;

– To sanction the violator of the concession contract – “Yulen” – and terminate the concession for the Bansko ski zone;

In addition to violations, environmentalists presented to the concessionaire “Yulen” and the Bansko Municipality some proposals for improvement in the winter resort:

In order to improve the operation of the lift:

– Open the ticket boxes and the lift at 7:00 am to avoid the crowds at rush hour;

– Use a maximum capacity of speed of the cabin lift (it operates very often at low speed or at uneven speed – it accelerates and then stops);

– Elimination of the VIP line that lets in special groups more quickly, but causes a bottleneck at the boarding of the cabins;

In order to improve the ski service:

– Differentiation in the pricing of the lift pass, giving large discounts for the period Monday-Thursday and thus stimulating short-term travel in those days of the week;

– Introduction of a morning half-day pass for the time period 8:30 am to 12:30 pm (as in the Borovets winter resort);

– Price reduction for half-day cards, so as to stimulate inactive skiers to use the runs either in the morning or after lunch;

– Organization of shuttle buses (hybrids or electric with low-carbon emissions) with greater frequency to the lower station of the lifts Zhelezen Most (Iron Bridge) or Banderishka Polyana (Bandersihka Meadow) and restrict access of private vehicles between 8 am and 11 am;

– Shuttles from more distant hotels to drive skiers not to the cabin lift, but to the first chair lift

– Introduction of free public parking lots;

Additional information:

What are the three criteria for including Pirin in the world heritage list of UNESCO:

  1. The mountain scenery of Pirin National Park is of exceptional beauty.
  2. Its glacial geomorphology, demonstrated through a range of features including cirques, deep valleys and over 70 glacial lakes.
  3. The property is a good example of the continuing evolution of flora, as evidenced by a number of endemic and relict species, and the property also protects an example of a functioning ecosystem that is representative of the important natural ecosystems of the Balkan uplands.

Pirin National Park is an exclusive State ownership of all Bulgarians and protects ancient forests of white and black fir, and many other endangered species. This is the only national park in which there is a ski area. (Borovets is outside the National Park Rila, and there is no national park at Pamporovo.)

Over the years UNESCO has issued a number of recommendations for the development of tourism in National Park Pirin (2001-2014), such as for the State to establish which facilities in the Bansko ski area are in violation of permits and legal requirements; to assess the capacity of ecosystems in the National Park; to restrict the use of areas in the park for tourism and provide recovery measures and afforestation of illegally degraded areas (2002-2011); not to allow new construction in the National Park (including in the buffer zone of UNESCO’s site), including not allow expansion of the tourist zones in the preparation of the new Management Plan for the Park (2011); to explore possibilities for the development of alternative forms of ski tourism (2011-2013); to carry out an environmental assessment for the new Management Plan of National Park Pirin (2011-2013).

More on UNESCO’s recommendations read HERE.

 

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