New Natura 2000 – Will Irakli be saved?

Yesterday the resolutions for establishing 10 new areas protected by Natura 2000 were signed by the Environment Minister.

The EU’s environmental programme has recently become a widely discussed issue, raising voices of protest of both eco-activists and land owners. The same day the ministry’s press service announced the new protected areas, eco-activists from “To Save Irakli” blamed the minister that he had allowed a local company to quarry rock in the area of Irakli and Emona, which is supposed to be part of Natura 2000 eco network.

The new zones included to the programme are Kotlenska Mountain, Berkovitsa, Zlatno Pole, Zhrebchevo Lake, Kamenski Bair, Boboshevo, Kocherinovo, Dolna Koznitsa, Osogovo and Skrino. Objections, proposals for changes and any written statements can be presented at the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources until May 9th.

Chakurov has decided to give a private company the right to prospect more than 100 ha of land for rock quarry and sand extraction, despite the “re-zoning” ban for Natura 2000 areas. The current ban for Emona area will expire in July 2008.

The company (named Baron and registered in Haskovo) intend to apply for concession of the area. Emona’s landowners suspect that this way the Government will try to force them to sell their lands.

According to Donka Kitanova, chairperson of the association of landowners in the Emine-Irakli area, this is an attempt these land plots to be actually stolen. Currently, prices in that area are around 200-250 euro/sq.m for agricultural unregulated land. If the alienation of the land passes approval, prices will inevitably fall down significantly.

The area around the village of Emona now the most controversial issue related to real estates market. Located north from the Sunny Beach resort, its virgin nature is still untouched by building companies.

The beach of Irakli is one of Bulgaria’s most beautiful places combining the crystal clear waters of cape Emine and the wonderful steep cliffs of the Balkan Mountain covered with green forests. Also it is not popular among foreign tourists which turns it into a real get-away and a place to escape from the overcrowded resorts on Black sea coast.

The land plots in that area are mainly owned by local people from the village of Emona, who hope to be able to sell their land. The extremely high prices and the high chance the area to be included in Natura 2000 protection plan are currently setting back property developers to invest in that area.

However, the governmental plans to alienate the land are suspected to intend to devalue the plots in favor of a particular private company, which will later develop the area as a tourist destination and will both destroy the nature of the area and leave the locals deceived and practically robbed.

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