Bulgaria Resort Mayors Rise up against UNESCO Protected Zones



Local mayors have risen up against the expansion of protected areas in the Pirin Mountain. Photo by visitpirin.net

Local mayors have risen up against the expansion of protected areas in the Pirin Mountain. Photo by visitpirin.net

Two Bulgarian mountain resort mayors have sent an open letter to Prime Minister Borisov expressing concern over the inclusion of new zones in the UNESCO World Heritage protected areas.

Alexander Kravarov, Mayor of the top mountain resort of Bansko, and Blagoy Dunkin, acting Mayor of the nearby town of Razlog are protesting against the expansion of the UNESCO-status territories in the Pirin Mountain.

“At present, representatives of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee are viewing the territories of the Pirin National Park, which is a World Heritage site. Their goal is go turn the entire park into a UNESCO protected territory. Over the years, the area of the National Park has been increased by 24 000 hectares to reach the present 40 000 hectares. Now under pressure from environmental organizations which have turned environmental protection into a profitable business they want to expand the park by additional 12 000 hectares,” Kravarov and Dunkin have stated.

The new zones to be given UNESCO protected status are territories around the town of Simitli, and the Kresna Gorge, and around Bansko, Razlog, and Dobrinishte.

“As Mayors of Bansko and Razlog we are extremely worried because the inclusion of new territories as a UNESCO World Heritage site means banning all sorts of activities within the Pirin National Park. This threatens the construction of a number of important infrastructure projects such as the ski zones in Bansko and Dobrinishte, the construction of the Struma Highway, and executive of the Accessibility Program which is part of the Transport Operational Program,” the two Mayors say in writing to the Prime Minister.

Kravarov and Dunkin claim that in a time of global economic crisis mountain tourism has immense significance for the survival and development of their regions.

The two Mayors are asking Prime Minister Borisov to exert all of his influence and to prevent the “needless inclusion of new territories into the Pirin National Park”.

They also hope that the newly-elected Bulgarian Director-General of UNESCO is going to be understanding of their demands, and would help prevent the imposition of such limitations in order to carry out their program for prosperity of the entire region.

The letter of the two Mayors regarding the protected areas in the Pirin Mountain comes in the wake of Thursday’s news that the European Commission sent Bulgaria four warnings about environmental violations concerning three protected areas, and the country’s environmental legislation as a whole; one of the three protected areas in question is the Pirin Mountain.

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