Bulgaria's Varna Sees Mass Rallies against Park Construction
Protest rallies of citizens and environmentalists are shacking Bulgaria's Black Sea capital Varna with demands to ban all construction in one of the city's top landmarks, the beautiful Sea Garden.
Just one day ago, under strong public pressure, at a dramatic session, the Varna municipal council banned construction in the park, but the demonstrators vowed to continue their fight and rally until the thorny issue with the so-called Alley One is resolved.
The protests, held in the city since Monday, are part of a series of such rallies against the development plans of "Holding Varna", a company related to locally all-powerful shady TIM consortium, which include the demolition of the vast park's seaside alley to erect a number of business buildings.
The notorious Alley One project, as it came to be known, foresees the construction of a yacht port, offices of Maritime Administration, hangars for sea vessels, sports and entertainment facilities, food establishments, a fishermen village, a year-round swimming complex with at least three aqua parks, a medical center, and five hotels at the site.
At the end of March the Varna Municipality made a revision of the construction and development plan of the city, officially making it allowed to carry out construction in the Sea Garden.
The new plans allowing Holding Varna to proceed with its construction projects will technically downsize the Sea Garden by 62%, according to the protesters. They are alarmed by the possibility of turning the beautiful park into a concrete nouveaux-riche district, where trees and green areas will be destroyed.
On Wednesday, the Varna City Hall, all while stressing that Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, has been personally appraised with the new common urban plan of Varna (OUP) and has approved the construction ban, the councilmen refused to examine the Alley One issue. The topic was not even mentioned during the session.
With 2 votes for, 7 against and 23 abstaining, the councilmen refused to give the floor to architect Kalina Pavlova, one of the forerunners of those opposing the Alley One project, while the requests of the other NGO and civil organizations representatives were not even voted on.
The municipal council refused to examine the topic on grounds the decision must be made by the State. The discontented Varna residents insist the construction ban as is will only harm the interests of some minor investors and will leave powerful TIM untouchable.
Slavena Panayotova, from the Association "Varna Breathes" declared the rallies are to continue until the Alley One issue is resolved, stressing citizens are organizing themselves, mainly through the social network Facebook, not through the NGOs.
Varna saw the largest rally Tuesday evening when the demonstrators blocked a key intersection of the city during rush hour by sitting on traffic lanes just in front of the City Hall building, similarly to the protests in the capital Sofia, on Eagles Bridge, after the Parliament passed the controversial Forestry Act.
Four people were arrested with many complaints about police brutality and of Varna police officers totally clueless on how to handle such cases.
The meeting of the City Hall and the rallies were attended by a number of popular people, including former Foreign Minister and career diplomat Ivan Stanchov.
Stanchov, who is also known for dedicating years of his life for creating and supporting a home for disabled children, located in the park, left the Wednesday session in sign of protest, and labeled the whole issue a disgrace.
"Things will not get better until a handful of people have a hold on the entire country," said he.
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