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Sofia mayor Borissov withholds support from new ski zone on Vitosha

Date: 29.01.2009

Protectors of Bulgarian nature have won one fragment of an ongoing battle, through Sofia mayor Boiko Borissov's statement that he would not give his approval to the development plan for the construction of an enlarged ski zone on Vitosha Mountain.

The coalition of 30 environmental organisations and citizen groups To Save the Nature in Bulgaria (TSN) said this in a January 26 2009 press release, in reference to the January 23 meeting between Borissov and TSN.

Ski zone Aleko, which dates to 1983, is under the management of Vitosha Ski. While investors are looking to expand the territory of the winter playground, environmental organisations, tourist associations and sport groups are questioning the benefit of this decision.

Not only is Vitosha Mountain, the oldest national park in the Balkans, a protected natural zone, it is also prone to extremely high winds, particularly in the location where a new lift is envisaged. The planned pistes would fall into safeguarded territory, as virtually 100 per cent of Vitosha Mountain is designated as a protected zone, a representative of Nature Park Vitosha told The Sofia Echo.

Nor does public opinion support the building of an enlarged ski resort, TSN said in the press release, citing 2008 data from Alpha Research.

In addition, Vitosha Ski does not have a good record of respecting the law as it is – in October 2008, 450 moraines on the mountain, where they lay in a unique riverlike formation, were blown up, albeit “legally”, according to an article in the daily Gradski Vestnik from October 5 2008.

Yet, on January 16, Vitosha Ski submitted a development plan for an upgraded Aleko to Sofia municipality, long after the law required – construction on the area had started in November 2008. Such a plan also runs counter to Bulgaria's Spatial Development Act and the Law for the Protection of the Environment.

About 3.5 million people visit the mountain annually, Nature Park Vitosha said.

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