The battle for Mount Pirin begins anew

At the end of 2012 the Pirin National Park that goes across almost the entire Pirin Mountain in Southwestern Bulgaria, (40,000 ha), marked its 50th anniversary as a protected territory.

And 2013 marks the tenth anniversary since the inclusion of this priceless natural site in the UNESCO list of world heritage in its part focused on Man and Biosphere. In 2013 the ten-year plan for the park’s management expires too, and it has to be replaced with a new one. This small detail is telltale about the escalating tensions that have surfaced this season between circles with ambitions to build new ski resorts in Pirin, on the one hand, and environmentalists who believe that over-construction is already a fact in the mountain, on the other.

The new battle for Pirin began back in 2011 when the start was given to work for drafting a new plan for the management of the national park. It was then that the mayors of Bansko, Dobrinishte and Razlog spoke up about their intention of building new ski zones above Razlog and Dobeinishte and extending the existing one in Bansko. The word is about 200 km of new ski tracks and the respective cable cars, tow and chair lifts. All this is about new roads too that should connect the three zones. There is an idea to install a cable car lift with a 100-seat cabin aimed to transport tourists above two of the Pirin reserves. The final objective is to make Pirin a global attraction for winter tourism. Opposing such plans that would entail major forest felling and big damage to biodiversity, environmentalists have come up with a different point of view. They say that the region should better develop as a zone for spa, wellness and eco-tourism that guarantees sustainable growth.

In 2000 a concession was granted to a private company to build a ski track above the town of Bansko aimed to meet the demand from about 7800 tourists. The conclusion was that it would not endanger the existence of the nature park as a protected territory. Unfortunately the region became the scene of uncontrolled construction and today the once small town offers accommodation for as many as 20,000 excluding the accommodation capacity of residential buildings and apart-hotels.

As a result the capacity of local accommodation is now five times the one back in 2000. Well, it is now quite obvious that a second cable car lift should be built. However, with plenty of evidence of mass violation of the laws, the prospect of further destruction of the region’s nature by building new and new facilities for tourists, is quite realistic, environmentalists argue. Borislav Sandov, Deputy Chairman of the Greens, recalls that restrictions for building hotels in Bansko have not been observed. On top of that, the concessionaire there has expropriated 60% more territory from what has been conceded to him. 

The final round in the debate for the future of the Pirin National Park which following unbridled construction has narrowly escaped exclusion from the UNESCO world heritage list has entered its decisive phase – the forthcoming adoption of the new plan for the park’s management. 

Translated by Daniela Konstantinova 

Adapted from Bulgarian National Radio