Skiers, Hikers Sound 'Wake Up Call' for Bulgaria's Rulers
Environmentally conscious Bulgarian citizens assembled Thursday in front of the Ministry of Agriculture in Sofia to warn of possible encroachments on Bulgarian nature and mismanagement in the winter tourism industry.
Ralliers, including many hikers and winter sports lovers, brought alarm clocks and mobile phones set to fire an alarm at 6.45 pm to manifest their alertness.
The gathering was organized as a continuation of massive protests in Sofia in mid-June against amendments of Bulgaria's Forestry Act that many citizens saw as motivated by corporate interests for easier development of forest areas.
Thursday ralliers brought to attention the ongoing lack of clarity regarding ski facility operations in the Vitosha Mountain near Sofia.
They once again accused the Vitosha Ski company, which operates most facilities in the mountain, of trying to push off other operators and create a monopoly, and to illicitly expand its facilities, creating an environmentally unfriendly ski area.
In addition, protesters spoke up against a possible expansion of facilities in Bulgaria's main ski resort, Bansko in the Pirin Mountain, which they say would needlessly damage the Pirin National Park.
Bansko mayor Georgi Ikonomov has recently filed with national authorities a petition signed by 8,000 locals calling for such an expansion.
Environmentally aware citizens have argued back in saying the petitioners were misled by their mayor, or are financially controlled by main Pirin ski operator, Yulen.
Both Yulen and Vitosha Ski are known to be controlled by Bulgarian Ski Federation president Tseko Minev, a controversial businessman also holding the First Investment Bank, and known to enjoy close ties to Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov and members of his cabinet.