Bulgarian environmentalist staged once again Saturday a protest rally against looming amendments to the Forestry Act.
The march was organized by the coalition of NGOs, known as “For Keeping Nature in Bulgaria” with the support of other civic organizations. Rallies are also held in the cities of Plovdiv and Burgas.
Over one hundred demonstrators reiterated demands to the Members of the Parliament to not pass the amendments which give big investors rights to build in Bulgarian mountains.
In addition to the traditional posters for the protection of forests and against local monopolies, many carried handmade signs reading “I Love the Forest,” “Forests Are Not Only Lumber, They Are Our Lungs and Our Heart. Keep Them,” “Let’s Save the Forests from the Law,” “We Want Forests, Not Concrete!”
The demonstrators remind that the second reading of the amendments is forthcoming in the Parliament and if passed they will doom Bulgaria to cheap felling of State and private woods to build ski lifts and tracks, to landslides and floods.
According to them, the forests in protected areas of Bulgaria, which occupy only 5% of the country, will be the most vulnerable. The new Act will be further proof that the State does not serve public interest, but private economic interests of one businessman, who now controls 3 of the 4 major ski areas in Bulgaria – Bansko, Borovets and Vitosha.
The Coalition further points out that the government plans to “cut” 12% from the territory of the National Park “Pirin,” which is one the UNESCO world natural heritage list, with the sole goal to allow the expansion of the Bansko ski area.
This and other recent protests were triggered by Vitosha Ski’s refusal to turn on lifts and other ski facilities on the Vitosha Mountain at the beginning of December 2011 on the grounds texts from the Forestry Act were making such activity illegal.
The current law mandates owners of such equipment and facilities to have an established “servitude” (a status for full-rights on the use of real estate) in order to clean and secure the lifts paths. Vitosha Ski cannot apply for such servitude because they do not have an approved comprehensive development plan (PUB).
The company proposed a PUB for a new ski zone, but it was rejected because it included protected territories and because the environmental assessment was not done according to the rules. The company attacked the decision of the Ministry of Environment and Waters in Court, but left their PUB unchanged.
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