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Bulgarian government announced new marine protected areas, but again missed Low Rila protected area

Oct. 31, 2013
Coalition of NGOs and civic groups “Let the NATURE remain in Bulgaria” welcomes the widening of the Natura 2000 network in its aquatic part, approved yesterday by the Council of Ministers. The announcement of the marine protected areas is part of the obligation of each EU member state on the Habitats Directive and a chance to preserve a number of aquatic species in the Black Sea, where protected areas are fully missing.
However, the delay of the announcement of the “Lower Rila” protected area continues, although the term for it expired at the end of this September. In 2012, during the bio geographical seminar for Natura 2000, it was confirmed that the territories under protection of the network in the region of Rila for two species: the brown bear and the European bullhead (a fish species vanishing from our country that lives in the middle reaches of the rivers), are inadequate.
There were a number of debates over the borders of this region, but consultations between representatives of NGOs and the Bulgarian Academy of Science were held and a consensual decision about the borders was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Water, but from there still hold up the promulgation of the zone.
To ensure the protection of this area there is not only sufficient scientific data, but also overwhelming public support. In the period 2007 - 2008 unprecedented number of people (over 170 000) signed the petition in support of the protection of Rila.
The question why the state refuses to meet its obligations becomes hotter, given to yesterday's decision of the Council of Ministers to establish a working group to discuss the project, named “Destination Rila”. Declared with megalomaniac parameters with hundreds of kilometres of ski tracks, the project has already started wrong: with its decision, the Council of Ministers violates his art. 95, par. (1) of the Environmental Protection Act, as the investor has not notified the Ministry of Environment and Water and the affected population, but has informed the Council of Ministers and already has a working group.
The projects for large-scale construction in Rila are not the only threat to protected species – the construction of a water power plant “Rosa” on the Levi Iskar River above the village of Mala Tzarkva is already in progress. This hydroelectric plant is about to destroy the habitat of protected species in Levi Iskar River, but MEW does not fulfil its obligations to protect habitats and populations in the Natura 2000 network and to stop the construction and declare the “Lower Rila” protected zone.
To projects for construction of large ski resorts and hydroelectric plants can be approached in compliance with the law, transparent and professional. But maybe the information is hidden, only for the law to be manipulated and the institutions to omit the violations tacitly. “Destination Rila” and similar projects in “Lower Rila” will clearly show which way the current government has chosen.