1.         Pirin National Park (Bulgaria) (N 225bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1983

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/225/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1995-2004)
Total amount approved: USD 21,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/225/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: 2010: financial support from the Participation Programme of UNESCO for development of a strategy for sustainable tourism

Previous monitoring missions

2002, 2004: Joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Developments in the Bansko ski zone,

b) Lack of effective management mechanisms,

c) Boundary issues,

d) Illegal logging. 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/225/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

On 31 January 2012, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides a response to Decision 35 COM 7B.21, adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 35thsession.

From 10 to 14 October 2011, a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission visited the property, in accordance with Decision 34 COM 7B.5. The mission’s objective was to review the recent capacity upgrades of ski facilities in the property’s buffer zone, in order to determine their likely impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and make a recommendation on the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, as requested by the Committee at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011). The mission also assessed the overall state of conservation of the property and other factors affecting its OUV.

a) Developments in the Bansko tourism zone

The State Party notes that the recent capacity upgrades of ski facilities, approved in 2010, has not resulted in increased tourism pressure, nor has it affected the OUV of the property. It states that higher capacity has not increased the number of skiers, but only improved their security and the quality of service. The State Party reports that in 2011, it has not approved the construction of any new ski runs and ski facilities within the property or its buffer zone. In line with Committee Decision 35 COM 7B.21, the State Party provides a list of 6 approved and 2 proposed developments, which relate to ensuring the functioning of existing facilities, enhancing the safety of tourists, restoration of habitats and improving components of the environment.

The mission noted that, although the replacements and capacity upgrades within the buffer zone of the property were not foreseen in the Territorial Arrangement Plan (TAP) for Bansko tourism zone, they have been undertaken in an appropriate manner and cannot be viewed as adversely affecting the OUV of the property. The mission is of the view that attention should be focussed on monitoring the impact of the buffer zone activities on the OUV of the property, including the requirements for integrity and protection and management, and considers that the State Party should be specifically requested to notify the World Heritage Centre of any development taking place in the buffer zone that it considers might have impacts on the OUV of the property. However, it should not need to notify amendments within the buffer zone that are assessed as not having impacts outside the buffer zone.

However, the mission found that the municipalities of Bansko and Razlog have explicit and concrete plans to expand new ski zones within the property, as reflected in the TAPs of Dobrinishte (2010) and Kulinoto (2008). Furthermore, the concessionaire conveyed to the mission his request and plans to re-open and develop the Tzarna Mogila ski lift and ski run, which would extend developments outside the present buffer zone boundaries. The mission considers that if those developments were to proceed, they would clearly impact on the property’s OUV. It emphasized that any further developments of ski or other such facilities within the World Heritage Site would seriously compromise the integrity and the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN support the mission’s view that the World Heritage Committee needs to continue to take a very firm position that no further areas within the property, outside the already excluded areas, should be permitted for ski or other similarly high-impact developments. They emphasize that the 2010 exclusion of the Bansko and Dobrinishte buffer zones cannot be used as a precedent to consider further boundary modifications to facilitate additional ski development. They consider that the new Management Plan of the property should give this particular assurance. Worrying reports have been received about an unofficial proposal which envisages a new nomination of the property to reduce its size by 12% and to triple the skiing facilities within its current boundaries. The World Heritage Centre has sent a request to the State Party to provide clarification on this matter on 17 April 2012. At the time of writing the present report, no response had yet been received from the State Party. 

b) Ecologically sustainable tourism

The State Party reports that the 2014-2024 Management Plan of the property will pay special attention to not allowing further ski development or construction of other facilities within the property and its buffer zone, nor extension of the tourism zone into the property. It notes that as part of the preparation of the new Management Plan, an assessment of the capacity of the ski zone will be made. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the Committee had encouraged the State Party to commission an independent assessment of the capacity of the property and the buffer zone, rather than only the ski zone, in order to set clear usage limits for the ski zone. They also recall that the Committee’s recommendation was made in view of the apparent high capacity of tourism accommodation in Bansko town, which far exceeded the capacity of ski facilities.

The mission noted that there is an obvious imbalance between the capacities of facilities in Bansko town and those in the ski zone, which drives the pressure to expand ski tourism at the expense of other more sustainable and less seasonally dependent forms of economic development. The mission considered that in promoting a sustainable and more balanced development of livelihoods in communities surrounding the property, emphasis should be on a diversification of tourism in terms of products, services and season, in line with the new strategy for sustainable nature tourism, developed in 2010 by the Pirin National Park Directorate, with financial support from the UNESCO Participation Programme.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN support the mission’s recommendation that the tourism strategy, which emphasizes summer tourism and includes interesting proposals for each of the seven municipalities, taking into account their natural and cultural resources, needs to be promoted and implemented as a viable alternative to ski-based tourism development. They also support the mission’s recommendation that detailed “Tourism Implementation Plans” be prepared for the Bansko ski zone, based on the TAP, and for the Dobrinishte buffer zone, where no detailed plans currently exist.

c) Other conservation issues: boundary demarcation and monitoring the impact of activities

The mission noted that there is a need to clearly mark, communicate and maintain the boundary of the property, and especially the boundaries of the buffer zones, as defined in Committee Decision 34 COM 8B.5. The boundaries should be properly measured using ascertained GPS measurements, marked on the ground, and communicated to the municipalities and the ski zone concessionaire. They should be regularly monitored and enforced by the Pirin National Park Directorate to ensure that they are being respected, and violation of the boundaries should constitute a serious offence and breach of concession agreement, and be treated with the strictest measures by the Directorate and the Ministry of Environment and Water.

The mission also noted the importance of putting in place processes to monitor the impacts of the ski and other activities within the buffer zone on the surrounding property. It stressed that the impact of past and potentially future increases of visitor numbers and new activities within the buffer zone or the municipalities of Bansko and Razlog should be monitored and managed, and should not be permitted to lead to impacts on the OUV of the property. Also, the implementation of restoration measures should be strictly supervised and monitored by the Pirin National Park Directorate in accordance with conditions in the TAP, Environmental Impact Assessments, or any other subsequent administrative decisions.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the mission’s conclusion that the replacements and capacity upgrades of facilities in the buffer zone have been undertaken in an appropriate manner and cannot be viewed as adversely affecting the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. On that basis, they consider that there is currently no ascertained or potential danger to the OUV of the property as defined in Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and they recommend that the Committee not inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 36th session.

However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the mission’s observation that there are plans and aspirations to expand new ski zones within the property. They recommend that the Committee request the State Party to ensure, including through provisions in the new Management Plan, that no further areas within the property, outside the already excluded areas, should be permitted for ski or other similarly high-impact developments, emphasizing that the 2010 exclusion of the Bansko and Dobrinishte buffer zones cannot be used as a precedent to consider further boundary modifications to facilitate additional ski development. They also recommend that the Committee urge the State Party to promote and implement the 2010 strategy for sustainable nature tourism as a viable alternative to ski-based tourism development, and to prepare “Tourism Implementation Plans” for the Bansko and Dobrinishte buffer zones, for inclusion in the new Management Plan. They further recommend that the Committee request the State Party to clearly demarcate, communicate and maintain the boundaries of the property as defined in Decision 34 COM 8B.5, and ensure that they are being respected.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.18

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B,

2.  Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.21 adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.  Takes note of conclusion of the World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission that the recent capacity upgrades of ski facilities undertaken in the buffer zone of the property do not appear to have negatively impacted the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and requests the State Party to ensure developments in the buffer zone are assessed to ensure that they do not create impacts on the property;

4.  Notes with concern the reported plans to expand new ski zones into the property, including the proposed reopening of the Tzarna Mogila ski lift and ski run, and reiterates its position that if any additional development of ski facilities, ski runs, or associated infrastructure within the property are undertaken, the conditions for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger will be fulfilled;

5.  Urges the State Party to ensure, including through provisions in the new Management Plan, that no further areas within the property, outside the already excluded areas, are permitted for ski or other similar high-impact developments;

6.  Requests the State Party to implement the recommendations of the 2011 joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, in particular:

a)  ensure effective wider regional planning for economic development, and ensure that no developments that exceed the capacity of the area are permitted,

b)  promote and implement the 2010 strategy for sustainable nature tourism as a viable alternative to ski-based tourism development,

c)  clearly demarcate, communicate and maintain the boundaries of the property as defined in Decision 34 COM 8B.5, using ascertained Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements, and ensure that these boundaries are respected,

d)  put in place processes to monitor the impacts of the ski and other activities within the buffer zone on the surrounding property, in order to ensure that they do not negatively impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and put in place sufficient legal, contractual or other administrative arrangements to ensure that the Pirin National Park Directorate can influence the use and environmental impact of the chalets owned by the Bulgarian Tourism Union,

e)  ensure that the implementation of restoration measures are strictly supervised and monitored by the Pirin National Park Directorate in accordance with conditions in the Territorial Arrangement Plan (TAP), Environmental Impact Assessments or any other subsequent administrative decisions,

f)   expedite the process and make available sufficient resources to ensure that the new Management Plan of the property is completed and approved on time for its implementation immediately after the current Management Plan ceases being in effect in 2013,

g)  prepare detailed “Tourism Implementation Plans” for the Bansko and Dobrinishte buffer zones, consolidating existing, approved and envisaged plans in a transparent manner, and ensure that these buffer zone areas are explicit parts of the new Management Plan;

7.  Also requests the State Party to provide to the World Heritage Centre, as soon as it is available, three printed and electronic copies of the new Management Plan for review;

8.  Further requests that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including confirmation that no further ski development has been or will be permitted within the property, and a report on progress achieved in the implementation of the mission’s recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.