Government in Sofia sets ground for dangerous extension of ski zones in Pirin and Vitosha parks likely, NGOs warn

There is high danger that the ski zones of Bansko in the Pirin National Park and Aleko in the Vitosha Nature Park will be extended with the help of Bulgaria's present government, Environmental groups and NGOs from the For Nature in Bulgaria Coalition warned yesterday. A series of actions by members of government and the ruling majority in parliament raised activists' concerns. Among these is a recent statement by the ruling party GERB's Chairperson Tsvetan Tsvetanov that he supports the extension of the ski zone. This has been GERB's position since 2012 when a wave of civic protests prevented lobbyist ammendmends of the Forestry Act, designed to serve the concessioner.

Last week the government in Sofia publically announced the cancellation of a planned extension of the Bansko ski zone voted by the previous cabinet led by Plamen Oresharski, and addounced that a new decision will be made by February 15. Eventhough a 2011  geodesical mapping by Bulgaria's Ministry of Environment and Waters (MOEW) proved that the concessioner exploits an area of the park that exceeds the concession's parameters by about 60%, but rather than penalising these violations MOEW's own analysis announced that the problems were in the contract's text,'  the NGOs' coalition reminded in a press release.

Sofia's municipality, also lead by GERB-nominated mayor Yordanka Fandakova also took steps for ammending its urban plan to aid the extension of the Akeko ski zone in the Vitosha Nature park. Coinciedntially this week diferent state ministries are calling NGOs to meetings devoted to the development of ski sport in Bulgaria. The investment intentions in the Bansko ski zone do not reflect neither market research data nor the yearly occupancy rates in Bansko which is beyond 25% or apparent effects of climate change, the NGO coalition's members commented. "They willl not create sustainable workplaces in Bansko, where the entire service staff migrates during spirng and autumn", the nature protection activists reminded.

An actualisation of the management plans for both parks is ongoing and commissioned to a company, linked to the Bulgarian owner of the banks that practicaly owns the Bansko and Aleko ski zones, NGOs announced.