Swapping forest properties in Bulgaria

Banning the exchange of forest-properties was proposed yesterday during a press conference in Sofia by eco-activists of the “Sustaining the Nature in Bulgaria” (SNB) coalition. They have suggested that current “re-zoning” of the existing forests should also be terminated as soon as possible.

Forestland swapping has been introduced in order to make the state’s forest fund easier to manage. However, it is now used as a mechanism to acquire woodland plots, which are later fully chopped and built up.

A vivid example, given by Vanya Rutarova from Bulgarian Society for Bird Protection, is that of Kaliakra land plots exchanged for land in the Shoumen region. The companies that gained possession of such attractive lands had immediately started regulation procedures in order to start construction works.

The biggest problem and major flaw in the “swapping” procedure is that land which is evaluated at 1500-2000 BGN/hectare have been exchanged for similar land plots with market price of 2.5-3 million Euro/hectare. Konstantin Ivanov explained that the exchange had not been implemented as a market mechanism and that is why only the tax evaluation was used in the procedure.

According to the environmental organizations’ representatives there are numerous cases of fraudulent property swaps, many completed with the help of the municipal administrations and even the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Eco-activists reminded that this was not simply a crime against Bulgaria’s nature resources, but also against all Bulgarians and the state itself. These procedures encourage corruption among public administration and also leads to incredible financial losses for Bulgaria.

Despite the enormous and overcrowded seaside resort, Bulgaria still has several well-preserved nature areas, which unfortunately are threatened to become new construction sights because of administrative procedures, violated Bulgarian and European laws and corruption driven state resolutions.

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