Preserving important natural territories – case work against threats
The number of pristine nature sites is in constant decrease. The most important natural territories in Bulgaria have been included in the NATURA 2000 network. These are the Bulgarian natural monuments – Shablensko Lake, Burgas Lakes, Sakar Mountain, Pirin Mountain, Srebarna Lake and many others. These sites ensure the survival of biological diversity in the country. We wish to preserve them for the future generations and to learn how to protect our natural heritage together with the same vigour as we put into protecting our cultural monuments. We wish to learn together with the general public that preserving and protecting the Durankulashko Lake is no less important than preserving and protecting the Boyana Church.
What are the threats?
Unfortunately protected areas cannot guarantee utter protection. The threats are connected with a huge array of investment interests. Be it wind turbines, photovoltaic parks, quarries, resort complexes and other such projects – they all include a dramatic transformation of the habitats, abolishing the natural beauty of the landscape and even directly slaughtering its feathered inhabitants. But is it possible to forestall the construction of a swine farm on a pasture with a souslik colony on the territory of an Imperial Eagle pair? Or that of a hotel on the shore of a lake used by the Red-breasted Geese?
What actions does the BSPB take?
The BSPB works together with other non-governmental organizations to prevent the destruction of important natural territories. We monitor the investors’ statements of intent together with the procedures for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Ecological Assessment and Conformity Assessment. In the case of intents or orders which are not in compliance with the protection objectives of sites and thence cannot guarantee the absence of significant impact on the birds there, we prepare petitions and in many cases official complaints against the particular order. Often we are compelled to take further steps and take legal actions.
What have we achieved?
Over the last three years the BSPB has participated in over 60 procedures for EIA and for Compatibility Assessment of compatibility with the objectives of the NATURA 2000 areas. 43 complaints to the MoEW were submitted; we were involved in 24 legal proceedings. As a result of the work of the BSPB the construction of wind parks in Dobrudja and near Atanassovsko Lake was stopped, as well as that of solar parks and quarries in the vicinity of nesting sites of Imperial Eagles, of a swine farm on the Topolchansko Plain near Sliven, constructions near the Shablensko and Durankulashko Lakes, the construction of a bird-threatening electricity infrastructure in Sakar Mountain and many others.
Unfortunately not all environmental problems can be solved at the national level. The BSPB has lodged three complaints with the European Commission for: 1) the construction of wind turbines in the area of Kaliakra; 2) the lack of preventive protection for the NATURA 2000 areas for the birds; and 3) the failure to designate all Important Bird Areas as protected areas. As a result of our actions one of these problems was solved almost completely. In 2011 the government expanded the territory of two existing protected areas for the conservation of wild birds within the NATURA 2000 network – Lomovete and Zapadni Rhodopi; it also approved four new protected areas for the conservation of wild birds – Pirin Buffer, Centralen Balkan Buffer, Balgarka and Rilski Manastir. Thanks to that governmental order the network of protected areas for the birds was increased with 244 935 ha, which is 2.2% of the territory of the country. Thus the total area of the network of protected areas for the birds reached 22.6% of the territory of the country. As a consequence almost the entire territory of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) Zapadni Rhodopi, Pirin, Centralen Balkan and Lomovete is included in the NATURA 2000 network. Thus about 99% of the territory of the IBAs in Bulgaria is protected which brings the country in the ranks of the Netherlands and Latvia.
Considerable progress was also made with regards to the preventive measures in the protected areas. The statements of the ecological assessment are not concealed– with a few exceptions, – as was the case in the past; they are published on the web sites of the respective Regional Inspectorates for Environment and Water. The MoEW often revokes the orders of RIoEW following complaints by non-governmental organizations.
The Kaliakra case was brought before the European Court of Justice.
Complaints and statements of the BSPB on some emblematic cases of threats:
- Wind Park Smin
- Sakar electricity distribution line
- Micro hydroelectricity plant on Arda River in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains
- Wind Park Yuzhen Sakar
Legislation and policies
The BSPB takes an active part in the preparation of legal acts and strategic documents in order to guarantee the integration of the conservation of biodiversity in the national legislation and the national policies.
We participated in the discussions of strategic documents such as the Biodiversity Act, the Forestry Act, the Management Plans for the River Basins and the National Plan for Action for Energy from Renewable Sources 2011 – 2020.
Owing to the involvement of the BSPB and other organizations from the Bulgarian NGO coalition For the Nature strict restrictions were integrated in the National Plan for the realization of RES projects within NATURA 2000 areas, as well as in regions which are important for the conservation of endangered species. The construction of wind turbines and solar parks was prohibited in all NATURA 2000 areas. The construction of wind turbines in the geographical regions of Dobrudja and Eastern Rhodope Mountains was also prohibited, as well as in a 6 km radius from 26 NATURA 2000 areas important for raptors, and in a 2 km radius from 25 areas important for the conservation of water birds. The construction of hydroelectricity plants in areas important for the conservation of endangered species of fish was prohibited. This applies to all new projects.