Bulgaria: Thousands protest against skiing resort expansion

Written by on January 5, 2018 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria: Thousands protest against skiing resort expansion

Thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets on Thursday night, in order to protest against plans to expand the skiing resort of Bansko. In Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, the protesters blocked one main intersection.

One of the non-governmental organisations behind the protests, “For the Nature”, said a plan approved by the Bulgarian government, which allows the construction of a second cabin lift for the growing number of tourists in Bansko, violated the Protected Areas Act and the European Habitats Directive.

According to those opposed to any expansion of the skiing areas near Pirin National Park, which is a protected nature reserve, the government plan would open the way for large-scale logging and construction. They believe nature in the area would be endangered.

Apart from rejecting the plan approved by the Council of Ministers on December 28, 2017, the demonstrators demanded the resignation of Environment Minister Neno Dimov.

In Sofia, thousands of protesters met at the National Palace of Culture, in order to start their protest march through the city centre, including Boulevard Vitosha, Boulevard Czar Osvoboditel and Boulevard Dondukov, before they blocked the big Orlov Most intersection. The latter happened spontaneously and led to a big traffic jam.

“Pirin is not a Banitsa”.

In Varna, Svilengrad, Rousse, Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo, Bourgas, Dupnitsa, Kazanlak and other cities and towns, protesters turned up for protests as well.

At the same time, a group of demonstrators staged a protest in support of the expansion. In Bansko, Razlog and Dobrinishte, hundreds took part. This event was organised by the group “Future for the Municipality of Bansko”. These protesters temporarily blocked traffic on the road E-79 which connects Sofia to Bulgaria’s border with Greece.

Those in favour of a second lift in Bansko vowed to continue their protests until they saw “real action” in support of the plan. But those who oppose any expansion of the skiing areas are not ready to give up either.

Many Bulgarians are sensitive when it comes to potential threats to the beautiful nature of their country, also because they have seen violations of nature protection laws, e.g. at the Black Sea coast, not that long ago.

At the same time, part of the protest against any expansion of the Bansko skiing area is based on the assumption that there might me a lot of logging in Pirin National Park, along with the construction of hotels. The latter is something the government says will not happen.

Photo and “Banitsa” drawing by “For the Nature”.


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