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After more than a decade of criticism of resort development at Bansko in Bulgaria two of the world’s leading environmental protection bodies have decided that the ski run and lift developments have not damaged the environment or negatively impacted the UNESCO World Heritage site status of the Pirin National Park.
In separate developments the Bulgarian Government have in the past few days passed new laws allowing resorts to expand on to previously protected national park land sparking mass protests by environmental groups in capital Sofia, where an estimated 1500 people blocked a major road junction for several days in a row this week, leading to at least 30 arrests. In the latest twist as we go to press however the Bulgarain President, supported by the country’s prime minister, has vetoed the new laws and asked government ministers and environmental groups to talk before a decision is made.
For several years environmental groups have argued that development at Bansko, which the Bulgarian government recently agreed had illegally built some of its lifts and runs on national park land, threatened the areas UNESCO World Heritage site status.
However a report just published as a result of a special mission in October 2011 by staff from the World Heritage Center and from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which carried out spot checks in the national park, and determined that, according to Bulgarian media, “...the replacement of ski facilities at the resort was carried out in an appropriate manner and they cannot be considered a negative influence on the value of the world heritage site.”
Previously the Pirin National Park had been added to a list of ‘World Heritage in Danger’ and it’s not clear if that status will now be removed. Environmental groups are yet to comment on the UNESCO decision.