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A Green Bulgaria

Green issues are becoming more and more prominent in Bulgaria, and whilst many may argue that this is long overdue, the fact that city streets are now lined with recycling bins and young Bulgarians holding protest marches is a good sign for a country whose countryside is strewn with litter and whose unique ecological areas have in the past been threatened with construction and the devastation of natural habitats.

The Green Party

Bulgaria now has its own Green Party known as "the Bulgarian Greens." Whilst there is still not enough support for it to have its own members in parliament, they have won some of the municipal and mayoral elections in a few small towns and villages and have gone a long way to educating Bulgarians; just before the 2007 local elections they paid for a mass of outdoor posters depicting a green cross with the words Green Bulgaria on. Today, most active support comes from young Bulgarians who are unhappy with Bulgaria’s corruption and disrespect for the law and their protests and complaints have all been registered and supported by the EU who is considering imposing sanctions on the country.

Recycling Projects

Thanks to the European Union, and the high priority given to the recycling of waste, Bulgaria has joined the waste recycling programme with a host of blue, yellow and green plastic bins  suitable for paper, glass, metal, plastic waste. Recycling bins can now be found in all cities and towns although they are still lacking in many of the villages. Unfortunately, the majority of the Bulgarian population needs educating in the benefits of recycling. Stefan Stamenov, Manager of Recycling Bulgaria believes that the country needs a better system of collection to combat this, “we have to establish an orderly and well organised system of waste collection, where people are financially motivated to recycle their waste.” One area in need of attention is the recycling of construction waste generated by the recent building boom. Stamenov maintains that this issue is will be addressed starting with low levels of waste separation with recycling of materials like concrete can be crushed and used in the construction of new roads, sewage pipes and generally in all facilities, where no high-strength types of concrete are used.

Green Protests

Green protests really began around 2006 after young ‘greens’ discovered a website selling homes in Irakli, one of the longest and most unspoilt beaches in Bulgaria and home to large populations of turtles and rare birds. The idea that untouched Irakli could turn into an extension of Nesebar spurred the campaign ‘Let's Save Irakli.’ Even some of the landowners in this area who were tempted to sell to developers at inflated prices joined the campaign. The campaign was the first green success in Bulgaria and resulted in the Minister for the Environment and Water issuing a directive, which stopped all construction in the area, however the ban will be reviewed at the end of this summer and it will be interesting to see just how the current government deals with this. The successes at Irakli lead to the formation of a nationwide group known as ‘Let's Preserve Nature in Bulgaria.’ The group has had several court battles regarding the dissolution of the Strandzha Natural Park, the last bastion of Bulgaria’s undeveloped beaches as well as protesting against a new ski resort in the Rila National Park, the building of new ski lifts on the country’s oldest national park, Vitosha Mountain, They have also informed the European Commission about the damage caused in some Natura sites like Kaliakra and Kamchiyski Pyasatsi on the coast.

Natura 2000

Who knows the extent of devastation that could have been caused had the EU not intervened and developed the Natura 2000 scheme? Today, a large part of Irakli along with many other territories like the Pirin Mountains are under the protection of Natura 2000 and as a consequence of this they cannot be developed in any way. Should Bulgaria fail to follow the requirements of the scheme in Natura designated areas, the EU can levy sanctions and heavy fines. The green movement in Bulgaria is growing in support and prominence and will be the reason that this beautiful country does not fall prey to unscrupulous developers although the fight is only just beginning.

Changing Bulgaria

An opinion poll carried out by Alpha Research in 2008, showed that 80% of Bulgarians were in favour of the country’s environmental organizations. However, this may be pure lip service as the average Bulgarian is still throwing litter from his car window and schools fail to educate children on the benefits of keeping the country clean. Unfortunately the old Communist mentality of ‘it’s someone else’s job’ prevails and little responsibility is taken for litter and waste problems that can be controlled locally. However things are changing and some developers are now building eco friendly homes and taking responsibility for the waste they leave behind and in time as the younger generation replace the old mayors and politicians of the Communist era the country will become greener.