Bulgarian Parliament voted yesterday, February 28 2013 to impose an almost-complete ban on dunes at the country’s Black Sea coast, with exceptions that would allow building for sites of national significance, those related to national security and for essential infrastructure.

The law is among a number identified as urgent business for Parliament before it is prorogued ahead of Bulgaria’s ahead-of-term national parliamentary elections on May 12 2013.

Lyuben Tatarski, head of Parliament’s committee on regional development, said that the ban would apply to zones A and B along the coastline.

He said that the exceptions were necessary, for instance, to permit projects such as the South Stream gas pipeline to go ahead. The exception would mean that if South Stream had to go under a dune area, the law would not stop it.

The legislation is a sequel to national controversies at the start of 2013 about building projects in ecologically sensitive dune areas at Nessebur and Irakli at the Black Sea coast.

The construction projects resulted in large-scale public protests in several cities and a march on Parliament.

Media reports in January exposed a construction project at Coral Beach that, among other things, endangered a rare Spring Snowflake species. Reports at the time said that the construction permit had been issued illegally.

In the Nessebar case, environmental conservation groups and the media sounded the alarm when it was established that work was being done on land clearance and construction in a dune area.

The controversy led to intervention from national government level and firings of a number of senior officials, and in turn, an investigation into land swop deals from 2003 onwards.

The scandal with the 29 decares of protected area between Ravda and Nessebar on the Black Sea coast erupted in the last days of 2012 when environmentalists said that the area was part of the Aheloy-Ravda-Nessebar protected area from the Natura 2000.

It became clear that the area was sold without a tender based on an older law that was in force until 2010. The law technically does not provide any way of selling State land without tenders but it said it allowed procedures that started before 2010 to be completed under the older law.


Photo: Spas Spasov, dnevnik.bg


As a result, legal amendments are to be tabled to lead to a full ban on construction activities in Bulgaria on plots listed as sandy dunes, the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Lilyana Pavlova, confirmed Monday.

The pledge was made after a meeting between representatives of environmental organizations, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Regional Development Minister Pavlova, Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, and Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova.

Pavlova also reiterated that the proposal will include a text to better define the notion “sand dune,” and amendments to the Forestry Act.

Earlier Monday, the “For the Nature Coalition” of NGOs and civil groups sent an open letter to the media, listing the amendments proposed by them. They span over the Urban Development Act, the Forestry Act, the Black Sea Coast Urban Development Act, and the Preservation of Nature Act in order to prevent destruction of dunes in protected areas on the Black Sea Coast.

Some of the amendments aim at having public access to the general and detailed urban plans for all construction projects, and to environmental risk assessments. Eco activists further demand changes in the statute of forests listed in Natura 2000 to include only State and municipality owned plots.

It also emerged after the Monday meeting that Biser Dachev, Head of Bulgaria’s Executive Forest Agency, and Boycho Georgiev, Head of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water in the Black Sea city of Burgas, will be dismissed over failure to react to tip-offs about irregularities with protected areas.

On Friday, Bulgaria’s Directorate for National Construction Control, DNSK, repealed the permit issued for residential construction in a protected area with sand dunes on the Black Sea coast near the top resort and historical town of Nessebar.

The repeal of the construction permit, which came after a public outrage in the social media, was also announced by Pavlova.

The Minister presented the results from the DNSK inspection regarding the construction permit issued for construction in the Kokala (The Bone) area, Cherno More (Black Sea) quarter, town of Nessebar.

The construction permit included the first four stages of a total of 11 stages of construction in the protected area. It provided for the construction of 122 residential buildings.

Pavlova said the permit was illegal because of the lack of technical project and engineering infrastructure for the 122 buildings. She noted that administrative sanctions and fines would be imposed on the Chief Architect of the Town Hall and some municipal employees.

Also on Friday, it became clear that the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office started a probe into the case with the construction in the sand dunes area near Nessebar, which, at the Prime Minister’s request, will include the period from January 1 till December 31, 2012.

Borisov is also reported to have ordered Bulgaria’s Ministers of Regional Development, Agriculture, and Environment to update the Forestry Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Biological Diversity Act, and the Black Sea Coast Organization Act “so that such deals and construction projects couldn’t be allowed.”

Friday morning Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov visited the area near Nessebar, and shocked the public by stating that he was going to ask experts from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, BAS, on their position on whether the protected area in question actually consisted of sand dunes. He further said that it was possible that the entire Cherno More quarter was built on sand dunes.