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WWF Bulgaria warns of ongoing construction in Rila

Date: 28.02.2008

Bulgarian environmentalists have warned that illegal construction of a lift in the Seven Rila Lakes region of Rila national park has resumed, despite several court injunctions against it, a coalition of 18 non-governmental organisations and civil groups said in a statement on February 25.

The Bulgaria branch of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in the statement that construction work was carried out in the national park, which is part of a protected area under the Natura 2000 environmental network.

The construction was part of the planned ski zone Panichishte-Ezerata-Kaboul, which was yet to secure a construction permit, WWF Bulgaria said.

More than 70 000 people had signed an Internet petition against the illegal construction in Rila. Its authors plan to forward the signatures to the committee on petitions at the European Parliament, Bulgaria’s Environment and Water Affairs Minister Djevdet Chakurov, Parliament’s Commission on Environment and Waters, investor Rila Sport and Sapareva Banya municipality, which is responsible for the preservation of the Rila national park.

Another nearly 25 000 people signed the paper version of the petition during an information tour about the issue, which visited several Bulgarian towns. The petition insists on an immediate end to the construction of roads and ski lifts to the Seven Rila Lakes through protected areas (see map, Panichishte area).

Last month, WWF said nine international organisations had demanded that Bulgarian institutions put an end to illegal construction in the Rila national park and buffer zone.

The environmentalists claimed that the construction of planned ski slopes in the Panichishte-Ezerata-Kaboul area was already under way, masquerading as the creation of clear stretches of land used to prevent forest fires from spreading.

They are counting on the support of Danish member of European Parliament (MEP) Margrete Auken, from the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European legislative, who is scheduled to arrive in Bulgaria on February 29 and visit the Panichishte region in Rila the following day.

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