At its last sitting of the year, Bulgaria’s government approved on December 28 the amendments to the Pirin National Park management plan, tabled by the Bansko municipality, which are widely seen as opening the way for the construction of a second ski lift in the Bulgarian winter resort.
For years, the issue has pitted the municipality and local residents, who have lobbied in favour of a second lift, against environmental protection groups, who fear that any changes would lead to overdevelopment of the Pirin mountain range, a Unesco world heritage site.
The latest proposals rehashed the same debate over the past several months, with the government seeking to allay the fears by saying that the tourist area, which includes the skiing slopes above Bansko, only covered two per cent of the Pirin National Park.
The Cabinet’s media statement said that the Environment Minister Neno Dimov was to “undertake urgent measures to prepare an environmental review, in line with current legislation” in case there was investor interest to build a new cableway in the Bansko area.
Dimov vowed that any proposed investment would have to meet all the environmental review requirements, as quoted by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television. “Of course, this is also an opening for the development of alpine sports in Bansko and, perhaps, a good sign for such development in Bulgaria as a whole. There are significant economic implications. The timing is fortunate on the eve of the new ski season,” he said.
A report by news website Mediapool.bg, meanwhile, pointed out that the review of the contract with Bansko ski area concessionaire Yulen, which was to be conducted simultaneously with amendments to the Pirin National Park management plan, was postponed for 2018, when it would be subject to the new regulations of the amended Concessions Act, which will go into force in the first week of January 2018.
(Bulgaria’s winter resort of Bansko. Photo: banskoblog.com)