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UNESCO Warns Bulgaria over Ski Resort Developments

Date: 27.07.2009

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has warned the authorities in Bulgaria to stop ski resort developments in the Pirin National Park.

It has issue an ultimatum giving the government one last chance to comply with its own national laws which ban construction in the area until 2013 and European legislation to protect the area, reported.

The EC is currently looking at numerous complaints by environmental groups about such developments.

Bulgaria has asked for Bansko, Dobrinishte and Razlog to be taken out of the park but UNESCO has consistently refused, and said the construction of ski resorts must stop or the park would be put on the organization's endangered list.

An environmental coalition group, For the Nature, has been campaigning for the area to be protected further since major development began eight years ago in Bansko.

The Park was first granted World Heritage site status in 1983 but that status has been repeatedly challenged by the Bulgarian authorities.

Bansko is accused by environmental groups of building on 150 hectares of National Park without an Environmental Impact Assessment and of cutting down trees to create ski runs without the proper authorizations. The authorities deny this.

Environmentalists point out that the park is remarkable and renowned for its flora and fauna including centuries old forests of beech, spruce, fir, hornbeam, and durmast. More than half the flora of Bulgaria has been identified within the park and of these, 10 species and two subspecies are endemic, which means they are found nowhere else in the world.

It also has more than 130 higher plants and animal species which are included in the Bulgarian and the World Red Book of Endangered Species. These include extremely rare Edelweiss.

It is also home to most of Europe's largest mammal species including the brown bear, wolf, boar, chamois, deer and others. They claim that further development will result in more deforestation and animal displacement.

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