THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET
THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks
The Phuket News Novosti Phuket Khao Phuket

Login | Create Account | Search


Bulgaria’s skiing boomtown

BULGARIA: “Unlimited Ski and Fun!” promises a pamphlet touting the Bansko ski resort, a magnet for bargain-hunting holidaymakers in southwest Bulgaria.

constructioncorruptionlandenvironmenttourism
By AFP

Sunday 1 April 2018, 12:15PM


People ski at the Banderishka polyana ski resort near Bansko. Photo: AFP

People ski at the Banderishka polyana ski resort near Bansko. Photo: AFP

But nature lovers are demanding limits to the growth of the bustling resort carved into the majestic pine forests of Pirin National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site since 1983.

The clearance of more than 160 hectares of centuries-old forest to build the ski zone already prompted Unesco in 2010 to remove the area from the World Heritage designation, labelling it a “buffer zone”.

Now a much larger area could come under threat after a government decision in December opened 48% of the park’s 40,000 hectares for construction, sparking weekly protests attended by thousands across the country.

Protestors accuse the government of favouring business interests in a country ranked by watchdog Transparency International as the EU’s most graft-prone, with one huge banner at a recent rally in the capital Sofia reading: “Corruption! Save Pirin”.

But the resort is the area’s biggest employer and locals have responded with their own demonstrations in favour of expansion.

At issue in particular is a plan to build a second ski lift to ease persistent queues at the sole six-person lift, which currently takes 2,200 skiers per hour up to the 75 kilometres of runs.

British holidaymaker Carolyn Bennett, 30, is among the skiers who come in droves to Bansko from Britain, Russia and Bulgaria’s Balkan neighbours, attracted by the cheap food and lift passes as well as budget flights.

But even on a supposedly quiet day, she was among scores of people at the foot of the ski lift, where queues form from early morning and waits can last up to three hours.

“Another gondola is going to have a huge impact environmentally but I imagine coming here in peak season, that queue would probably be horrific,” she shrugged in the crammed gondola cabin.

“With a daily lift pass costing 28 euros (B1,085), Bansko is the cheapest resort of its capacity in Europe, and even if our queues have become notorious, people keep pouring in,” Bansko’s marketing chief Ivan Obreykov said.

Daily lift passes at ski resorts in France and Austria typically cost twice as much.

Bansko hosts some 35,000 to 40,000 visitors per month during the winter season. On a busy day, up to 7,000 people could hit the ski lift at the same time in the mornings.

Booming construction in the once quiet town of 9,500 inhabitants has seen its two-storey houses and cobbled streets surrounded by hotels and luxury apartments with space for 18,000 guests.

While ugly concrete skeletons of a number of hotel projects abandoned after the 2008 financial crisis mar the landscape, pressure is mounting to expand both the town and the ski zone.

Laguna Golf Phuket

Obreykov praised the government’s green light for the second ski lift, adding that its construction was the resort’s “first and most pressing task”.

But those opposed to the plan say it is a Trojan horse to cover up previous unauthorised building and encourage even more expansion.

“If they wanted to do just a second gondola, they would not have opened almost half of the territory of Pirin National Park for construction,” WWF’s Konstantin Ivanov said at a rally in Sofia.

“We don’t buy their promises that nothing more will be built there,” he added.

WWF claims the ski zone has already grown to cover 60% more territory than initially agreed and points to as yet unapproved plans for huge expansion of the resort.

Obreykov denied the charge, adding that new ski runs could be built only within the current area of the ski zone.

A recent study for the WWF concluded that the resort has already inflicted “irreparable damage” on the reserve, calling for Unesco to inscribe Pirin on its List of World Heritage in Danger if new construction begins.

A report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in November also said the conservation outlook for Pirin National Park – home to bears, chamois and wolves – was of “significant concern” and just one step away from the final “critical” stage.

IUCN also underlined the “threats of disturbance and fragmentation of the site associated with the exclusion of the skiing areas as incompatible with its World Heritage status.”

For economist Petar Ganev, of the Sofia-based Institute for Market Economics, the row is an example of “deepening mistrust in Bulgaria’s institutions”.

On the one hand, Ganev said Bansko is “a positive example of a very poor place which grew into a prosperous resort” and that building a second ski lift could be justified for that reason.

But, he added, suspicions that development is not being regulated fairly will “continue to bring people out on the streets”.

“The problem is not the second gondola but the corruption in the country,” Ganev said.

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

CAPTCHA

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Thai Civilized Party joins The Peaks probe party

Hmmm...While it seems like MP Sira is trying to get at the roots of a an illegal project that slid t...(Read More)


Phuket Law: New mandatory employee leave requirements

HA HA good luck in enforcing this one ,dont you realise you are in Thailand ?...(Read More)


Karon Police reveal details of Norwegian arrested for death of Brit at Phuket resort

As I understand, bail is also depending on what the police report was. Trespassing or murder? Its ...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Making it personal

Lets hope no corruption at high level Phuket Officialdom is playing a role is this affair. That woul...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Making it personal

Mr Sira is force fully shaking many trees. Sure some things will start moving. Probably a start wit...(Read More)


Rescue workers trap three monitor lizards in houses and gardens in Kathu

Released near Bang Pae Waterfall, that is a National Park area with rangers were visitors have to pa...(Read More)


Norwegian tourist charged for killing British man at Phuket resort

It is about a steak knife, not about just a fruit knife or 'burger' knife, guys....(Read More)


DMCR holds merit-making funeral ceremony for late dugongs

Then all repaired to a nearby restaurant for a delicious seafood dinner....(Read More)


Karon Police reveal details of Norwegian arrested for death of Brit at Phuket resort

Your initial reporting on this story were completely ridiculous. Many other outlets reported the sam...(Read More)


Norwegian tourist charged for killing British man at Phuket resort

Wrong K,especially in SEA i had the same experience as G.with those fruit baskets and straight blade...(Read More)