The Times: Wildlife Pays Price for Budget Breaks in Bulgaria
Skiers are unwittingly contributing to the destruction of one of Europe’s last wildernesses, home to brown bears, grey wolves and the lesser spotted eagle, according to a conservation charity.
About 150,000 Britons a year ski in the relatively cheap resort of Bansko in Bulgaria’s Pirin National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site whose glacial lakes, ancient forests and alpine meadows support an array of wildlife, including 45 species of mammals. It costs about £2,000 for a family of four to ski in Bansko for a week, compared with £5,500 in Courchevel in France.
WWF, the conservation group, says that the Bulgarian government is planning a major expansion of the resort, including 333km of new slopes and 113km of ski lifts.
Bulgaria’s environment ministry says that the expansion is needed to boost winter tourism and amounts to construction in only two per cent of the 400sq km park.
WWF, however, claims that there would be a 12-fold increase in the area covered by skiing infrastructure. It says that more than 3,000 hectares of forest would need to be felled for lifts, pistes and buildings.
“The expansion would take place in some of the most pristine and valuable areas within the park, and would require cutting down old Macedonian and Bosnian pine trees,” a WWF report says. It adds that the plans would permit logging over 60 per cent of the national park.
WWF is urging members of the Unesco World Heritage Committee to include Pirin on its list of world heritage sites in danger if the Bulgarian government presses ahead with its plans. The charity is also calling for the International Ski Federation and other ski governing bodies to exclude the resort from the race calendar if the construction continues.
WWF accepts the need for development but says that the government should focus on year-round sustainable tourism, including wildlife tours and spa holidays.
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