Riot Police Scatter Spontaneous Eco Protest in Sofia

Society » ENVIRONMENT | June 30, 2011, Thursday // 19:43

Riot police and gendarmerie have dispersed a spontaneous environmentalist rally that blocked one of the major crossroads in Bulgaria's capital Sofia Thursday night.

About 100 environmentalists blocked the crossing of the Vasil Levski Blvd and the Patriarch Evtimiy Blvd in Sofia in protest of the government’s intention to legalize a ski runways in the Pirin National Park that were obtained by the Yulen company.

The environmentalist protesters insisted that the state should renounce any contracts with Yulen, confiscate all constructed properties, and recultivate the affected section of the Pirin Mountain, which is part of the NATURA 2000 protected areas network and the UNESCO World Heritage.

After they were chased away by riot police, the protesters headed for the square in front of the Sofia University main building.

The protest comes as a follow-up after on Wednesday Bulgarian environmentalists vowed to bring down eco-minister Nona Karadzhova after she announced that cabinet will take measures to legalize illegal facilities in Bulgaria's top ski resort Bansko.

The controversial lifts and runways were found to overstep the area given for exploitation to the Yulen company, which manages the Bansko ski zone, in an area that is protected both as part of Natura 2000 and as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

"Yulen has in fact broken into territory it should not have been," confessed Wednesday Minister of Environment Karadzhova, after a number of checks of the territory had established that Yulen had illegally used some 250 acres of protected forest.

Minister Karadzhova went nevertheless on to nonplus journalists and environmentalists by saying that the government could do nothing against that.

She cited the alleged fact that terms of concession contracts cannot be changed according to Bulgarian law.

The Envrionment Minister also argued that otherwise cabinet would have to pull down facilities, something that in her words her colleagues Minister of Economy Traicho Traikov and Minister of Sport Svilen Neykov would be against.

Karadzhova went on to contradict herself by saying that the center-right GERB cabinet  will make the amendments necessary to make those facilities legal by extending the territory given to Yulen.

"Destroying facilities will mean bringing down the whole of Bansko for 5-6 years, which is just crazy," said the Bulgarian eco-minister, arguing that the move is in the public interest.

Environmentalists united in the "For the Nature" network have already started a petition for her resignation, and have vowed massive protests to protect the Pirin National Park in the area of which the Bansko ski zone is located.

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Tags: environmentalists, environmental activists, For the Nature, Bansko, ski, Nona Karadzhova, Traicho Traikov, Svilen Neykov, Pirin National Park, Pirin, Yulen
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