Monday, July 09, 2007
Strandja mountain in danger
Strandja (also spelled Strandzha) is a mountain in South-East Bulgaria. It is sparsely populated and so its wild beauty is preserved. It is home to many wild plant and animal species, a number of them endangered. The above photos are from Wikipedia. In 1995, the Strandja Nature Park was founded. Including the central part of the mountain, it became the largest protected area in Bulgaria.
However, the park and hence the natural ecosystem of the mountain are in grave danger now because of the greedy people rushing to build over every square centimeter of our Black Sea coast (I have an earlier post about this madness at http://mayas-corner.blogspot.com/2006/08/black-sea-coast-newspapers-are-telling.html). The quote below is from http://uk.news.yahoo.com/afp/20070708/tsc-bulgaria-environment-wildlife-proper-b1f5339.html.
Bulgaria's wilderness areas under threat from property investors
By Diana Simeonova, AFP - Sunday, July 8
SOFIA (AFP) - Bulgaria's wilderness areas, among the largest in Europe, are threatened by property investors who use legal loopholes to contest the territories' protected status to build holiday flats.
Last week, Bulgaria's Supreme Administrative Court stripped the protected status from the country's largest nature area, Strandzha, which spreads over 116,100 hectares (286,890 acres) in the southeast of the country.
The court ruled in favour of a major property investor, Krash 2000, which operates in the southern Black Sea region, one of the few areas untouched by the construction boom along the coastline.
Krash 2000 had sold some 90 holiday apartments in its "Golden Pearl" complex in the village of Varvara before local environment authorities froze construction last year.
A 1995 law regulating Strandzha's special status bans massive construction in the area, but Krash 2000 succeeded in having the law nullified in court by claiming it did not set clear boundaries for the protected territory.
Last year, another wild spot on the Black Sea -- the Kamchia river estuary north of Strandzha -- was similarly stripped of its protected status by a holiday resort investor.
Environmental watchdogs have warned that over half of Bulgaria's protected wilderness areas are susceptible to the same claim as their boundaries are only vaguely defined by law.
"The court gave Strandzha to the mafia," political analyst Evgeniy Daynov said in Dnevnik newspaper Thursday.
Daynov was among some 500 protestors who demonstrated in Sofia last week to protest the court's decision.
The protestors gathered suddenly, briefly blocking traffic on major crossroads and staging a lie-in in a central square, booing police and carrying banners reading "For a concrete-free Strandzha" and "Strandzha is not for sale."
On Monday, 35 demonstrators were arrested. Interior Minister Rumen Petkov said he would be "uncompromising" in dealing with such unauthorized gatherings.
But the protests seem to have worked as Environment Minister Dzhevdet Chakarov told journalists Thursday that the government would definitely appeal the Strandzha court ruling and fight to win back the nature area's protected status...
Bulgaria has one of the best preserved nature habitats and largest wild animal populations in Europe, including thousands of brown bears and wolves.
You can see photos from the protest at http://nabludatel.blogspot.com/2007/07/20.html. (Update: I am including here three photos from the linked post.) I haven't taken part in this protest. Although other mothers of young children attended (as a photo shows), I am reluctant to bring my babies to rallies of any kind, especially ones where people are very likely to be arrested or beaten.
You can sign an online petition to save Strandja - for Bulgarians at http://www.bgpetition.com/strandja/index.html, for others at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/strandja-bg/ (the latter site also includes more details about the case in English). However, I wonder who will read the petitions. I think it is more important to give the case maximum publicity. If you have a blog, you could consider mentioning Strandja. It will be even better if you have connections to "official" media, environmental organizations or government. I hope that foreign pressure, if intensive enough, will stop Bulgaria from the folly of destroying its own nature