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Committee Decisions

34 COM 8B.5

Natural Properties - Pirin National Park (Bulgaria)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-10/34.COM/8B and WHC-10/34.COM/INF 8B2;

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.21, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009);

3. Approves the extension of the Pirin National Park, Bulgaria, inscribed under criteria (vii), (viii) and (ix), in order to strengthen the integrity and management of the World Heritage property;

4. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

 Brief synthesis

The World Heritage property covers an area of around 40,000 ha in the Pirin Mountains, southwest Bulgaria, and overlaps with the undeveloped areas of Pirin National Park. The diverse limestone mountain landscapes of the property include over 70 glacial lakes and a range of glacial landforms, with many waterfalls, rocky screes and caves. Forests are dominated by conifers, and the higher areas harbour alpine meadows below the summits. The property includes a range of endemic and relict species that are representative of the Balkan Pleistocene flora.

Criterion (vii): The mountain scenery of Pirin National Park is of exceptional beauty. The high mountain peaks and crags contrast with meadows, rivers and waterfalls and provide the opportunity to experience the aesthetics of a Balkan mountain landscape. The ability to experience remoteness and naturalness is an important attribute of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

Criterion (viii): The principal earth science values of the property relate to its glacial geomorphology, demonstrated through a range of features including cirques, deep valleys and over 70 glacial lakes. The mountains of the property show a variety of forms and have been developed in several different rock types. Functioning natural processes allow for study of the continued evolution of the landforms of the property, and help to understand other upland areas in the region.

Criterion (ix): The property is a good example of the continuing evolution of flora, as evidenced by a number of endemic and relict species, and the property also protects an example of a functioning ecosystem that is representative of the important natural ecosystems of the Balkan uplands. Pirin's natural coniferous forests include Macedonian Pine and Bosnian Pine, with many old growth trees. In total, there are 1,315 species of vascular plants, about one third of Bulgaria's flora, including 86 Balkan endemics, 17 Bulgarian endemics and 18 local endemics. The fauna of Pirin National Park includes 45 mammal species, including brown bear, wolf and pine marten, and 159 bird species. Pirin is also home to eight species of amphibians, eleven species of reptiles and six fish species. Although the forests are affected by some historical use, the natural functioning of the ecosystem ensures the protection of its regionally significant biodiversity values.

Integrity

The original inscription of the property in 1983 proved to be inadequate in representing and maintaining the Outstanding Universal Value of Pirin, but an extension in 2010 has addressed the issues to the best possible degree and represents the minimum area of Pirin National Park that can be considered to correspond to the requirements of Outstanding Universal Value set out in the World Heritage Convention.

The National Park is clearly defined from the point of view of its mountainous nature and ecology, and the boundaries of the property are of sufficient size to capture the natural values of Pirin. Adequate boundaries have been established through the extension of the initially inscribed property, to include the most remote areas of the interior of the National Park, and exclude adjacent areas that are not compatible with World Heritage status due to impacts on integrity from ski development. The values of the property as extended retain the attributes of a natural landscape but they closely adjoin areas subject to intensive tourism development that are a risk to the integrity of the property.

Protection and management requirements

The property is covered by national legislation which should ensure strong national protection of the values of the property, including the prevention of encroachment from adjoining development. It is essential that this legislation is rigorously enforced and is respected by all levels of government that have responsibilities in the area. The property also has an effective and functioning management plan, provided its implementation can be ensured through adequate resources to both maintain the necessary staffing levels and undertake the necessary management activities to protect and manage the property. A system of regular monitoring of the natural values of Pirin and ongoing programmes to maintain habitats and landforms in their natural state, avoid disturbance and other impacts on wildlife, and to preserve the aesthetic values of the property are required.

The World Heritage property has long been subject to tourism pressure, largely caused by the development of ski facilities and ski runs. Small ski areas were developed at Bansko, Dobrinishte and Kulinoto in the 1980s and 1990s. Activities such as night skiing, off-piste skiing and heliskiing are activities which may affect the values and integrity of the property and require rigorous control. Bansko, adjoining the property, has become one of the most rapidly developing towns in Bulgaria with hotels and holiday resorts constructed literally on the park boundary. Tourism development within and around the property has not been effectively controlled in the past including some areas that were developed within the property and caused significant damage. The management plan for the property needs to ensure a long-term priority for the protection of the natural values of Pirin, and to guard against any encroachments and impacts within the property from skiing, sporting events or other inappropriate development. Equally the planning documents that are created by national, regional and local authorities need to similarly ensure the protection of the natural values of the property, and also integrate the benefits it provides as a natural landscape to the surrounding area.

Other threats to the property include illegal logging, poaching and the use of snow mobiles and quad bikes. These uses require close monitoring, management and the enforcement of effective regulations. The management of visitor use to both prevent negative impacts and provide opportunities to experience the values of the property in a sustainable way is also an essential long term requirement for this property.

5. Accepts, in the specific context of the above extension, the proposal of the State Party to exclude from the property four small areas (150.6 ha in total) on the periphery of the property which have been excluded from the national park; and also accepts the proposal of the State Party to exclude from the property the Bansko and Dobrinishte tourism zones (1078.28 ha in total), and to include these latter areas, which are still within the national park, in a new buffer zone;

6. Regrets that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property has been repeatedly and significantly impacted by the development of ski facilities and ski runs, to the extent that the property may be considered for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and that continued ski development is a critical threat to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

7. Requests the State Party to strictly ensure that no further ski development takes place within the property and its buffer zone, and to ensure that the existing ski facilities and ski runs comply with the approved requirements, including those for the restoration of degraded areas;

8. Decides that any further development of and severe impacts from ski facilities or ski runs, or associated infrastructure, within the property and its buffer zone would result in the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

9. Urges the State Party to ensure that the new management plan to be developed for the period post 2013 will not permit further ski development or construction of other ecologically unsustainable facilities within the property and its buffer zone, nor extension of the tourism zone into the property;

10. Also urges the State Party to take all possible measures to prevent the inappropriate use of the World Heritage Emblem, including by not allowing its use in relation to the Bansko ski resort, which cannot be considered a sustainable use of a World Heritage property; and encourages the State Party to explore and enhance options for ecologically sustainable tourism in the property that will benefit local communities;

11. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission to the property in 2011 to assess the state of conservation of the property, with particular reference to its effective protection from inappropriate development and human use within and beyond its boundaries, as well as the establishment of more appropriate buffer zones which satisfy the requirements of Paragraph 104 of the Operational Guidelines, and to review a draft of the new management plan to ensure that it will provide for the continued protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

12. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property, with particular reference to its effective protection from inappropriate development and human use within and beyond its boundaries, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011. This report should include the State Party response to the NGO submissions that resulted in an infringement procedure by the Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Bulgaria
Properties: Pirin National Park
Session: 34COM