One Man’s Haven Is Another Man’s Business

Forget the military print, there is a new fashion trend — the construction site print. This new camouflage collection is designed by World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and Noble Graphics to reflect the changing environment of Pirin National Park.

Camouflage Pirin campaign . Credits: WWF-DCP-Bulgaria

“Have you ever considered what camouflage would look like once there are no forests?” ask the creators of this fashion-oriented campaign. Two more sentences down the official release statement, it becomes clear — it’s not a matter of keeping up with the latest trends, it’s a matter of saving what never goes out of fashion — nature.

Pirin National Park is the only national park in the territory of Bulgaria part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Today, it is in danger of going into another, slightly less prestigious list — that of the World Heritage in Danger.

WWF has advocated for more adequate measures for the preservation of Pirin National Park for six years. Only two years ago, however, did WWF’s approach become more centered and focused on a specific problem the park is facing.

The resources of national parks are managed through the so-called management plans. These plans specifically entail the development strategy for a park, as the utmost priority is to preserve its biodiversity. Management plans have the weight of laws in the park and are valid for 10 years. Before they are officially accepted however, they have the status of a proposal plan. For the execution of such a plan a wide range of specialists, such as ecologists, sociologists, economists, is needed.

In the end of 2015, a new proposal plan was composed for Pirin and to this day it consists of two major problems, said Vladimir Milushev of the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation. The Foundation was the leading organization in the year of 2000, when the first management plan for Pirin was created.

The first major problem in the current proposal plan is that it allows expansion of the tourist zone of the park. Compared to the previous years, this zone is planned to be 12 times bigger. Moreover, if the plan goes through, construction in the tourist zone will be allowed.

The second major problem with the proposal plan is that it allows logging in the park. Usually logging is strictly restricted in national parks and is done only for revitalization of forests. In this sense the new proposal plan is a precedent. Not only does it allow logging, it also encourages it on 60 percent of the park’s territory, said Milushev.

There is more to this subject though, said Elena Topuzova, expert of geography and information systems in Pirin National Park. An additional land-use plan will have to be created if the proposal plan gets accepted to determine the exact type of logging that will be allowed in the park, she said.

“We have have to show a bit tolerance as well. I, of all people, don’t want any commercial logging in the park. But you can’t just say that it’s a national park and that’s it. What about the people that live here?” said Topuzova.

While she agrees there are some drawbacks in the plan, she also thinks that sometimes organizations don’t stick to the truth in order to appeal to people.

For example, in the official website of Save Pirin there are photos of trees cut down to make way for the ski slope. These, however, are old photos that create the wrong impression as currently no logging is happening on the territory of the park. “We also have to keep in mind that we can’t remain completely inactive. Sometimes we have to interfere with the processes of the park to protect it,” she said.

WWF’s campaign Save Pirin. According to Elena Topuzova, expert of geography and information systems in the park, the images showing logging are outdated and distort the truth of the current ongoing processes in the park.

Since 2015, the plan has still not been officially accepted by the government. It remains on the proposal level and this is mainly because of pressure coming from the citizens, according to Milushev. However, it has not been abandoned altogether and it can get accepted anytime.

“I myself wonder how such a plan can be accepted even on the proposal level when it has so many violations of the norms,” Milushev said.

If this plan is accepted as the official management plan for Pirin, the park won’t look the same. The possible ski slopes that will be constructed will fragment the land shaft of the park. Furthermore, the ecosystem won’t function as before due to threatened habitat and disturbed biodiversity of almost every species, he said.

Since 2015, more than 100 organizations have associated themselves with the cause of WWF. One such organization is Transparent Mountains, which is aimed at informing and engaging citizens in active participation of the management of mountain resources.

In 2015, a report discussing the development of mountain areas in Bulgaria was issued by Transparent Mountains. Dimitar Sabev, who is a journalist specializing in the economy and the environment, contributed to the report by doing research on the region of Bansko, which is part of Pirin National Park.

“What I saw in the proposal plan was a made-up story,” said Sabev, who also has his own blog, where he posted a detailed explanation of everything wrong with the plan in 2016. “This plan had a different priority than preserving the national and world heritage. Its main priority was to create an excuse for further development of the tourist sector.”

Sabev is not only a specialist writing about the environment, he is also emotionally attached to the park. “Pirin is really valuable, there aren’t many other places like this in Europe. A lot of money can be gained from Pirin, I am sure of this. But the model seen in Bansko is primitive. It is a model of predatory animals, not of sensible people.”

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Aleksandra Nikolova is a third-year journalism student at the American University in Bulgaria. She is interested in controversial problems.



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