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 granted: financial support from the Participation Programme of UNESCO for development of a strategy for sustainable tourism (2010)

Previous monitoring missions

2002, 2004: Joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring missions; 2011: World Heritage Centre reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 1 February 2013, a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. 

a)  Developments in the buffer zone

The State Party provides details on five minor construction and reconstruction projects mainly in connection with existing skiing infrastructure which were considered and approved inside the buffer zone of the World Heritage property in 2012 following an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and an Appropriate Assessment (AA) to verify their compatibility with the conservation objectives of Pirin National Park. These developments have been approved as their impacts on the National Park are considered insignificant by the State Party.

The State Party further reports about a proposal by the Bansko Municipality to amend the regime of the Tourism Zone of the current management plan of the National Park, included in the buffer zone of the property to allow further development of Bansko skiing zones, within the area that was excluded from the property and became part of its buffer zone in 2010. This proposed amendment is currently under consideration by the State Party, in line with the relevant legislation.

Additional information was provided by the State Party in a letter dated 23 April 2013, further to an inquiry of the World Heritage Centre concerning the approval of the proposal of Bansko Municipality. The State Party confirmed that on 19 February 2013 the proposal has been considered by the High Ecological Expert Council (HEEC) under the Ministry of Environment and Water, which proposed that the Minister of Environment and Water submit the project  for amendment of the management plan, for adoption by the Council of Ministers, after considering the comments of HEEC. The State Party also clarified that at this stage of the process, the proposal does not carry any specific investment proposals and therefore no environmental impact assessments are required. The State party also confirmed that if the proposed amendment is accepted, “this will only allow to further draw up a plan under the Spatial Planning Act, with specific parameters and location of concrete objects, which will be assessed for their impact”. At the time of writing this report, the project had not been submitted to the Council of Ministers. 

b)  Plans for the establishment of new skiing zones inside the property

The State Party recalls that no new proposals for the construction of skiing zones inside the property were approved in 2012, and that all issues of importance to the National Park will be considered in the course of the development of a new management plan for Pirin National Park. The State Party stresses that it is aware that the World Heritage status of the property does not allow for ski developments inside its boundary and would lead to its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, but did not provide a clear commitment that no further ski development will be permitted within the property as was requested by the Committee in Decision 36 COM 7B.18 (Saint-Petersburg, 2012). 

c)  Regional planning for sustainable development, including nature tourism

The State Party confirms that the lack of a Master Development Plan for Bansko Municipality has triggered an excessive expansion in the number of beds in this part of the property’s buffer zone, and reports that preparation of a Master Development Plan for this municipality, including a SEA taking into account the National Park, has already started. The State Party notes that the 2010 Strategy for Sustainable Nature Tourism will be taken into account in upcoming development processes for municipal Master Plans and the National Park management plan and that an action plan for its implementation with specific activities, timetable and financial framework has been developed.

d)  Demarcation of the property

The State Party informs that a GPS-based demarcation of the boundaries of the property will be conducted as part of the project “Sustainable Management of Pirin National Park”, but provides no expected completion date. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that a timely completion of GPS-based demarcation of the property will be a key prerequisite to ensure that further encroachment of skiing facilities onto the territory of Pirin National Park and the property is prevented.

e)  Impact monitoring and minimization of ski and other activities in the buffer zone

The State Party announces plans to assess the need and possible approach for monitoring of impacts of skiing and other activities in the buffer zone on the surrounding property, without committing at this stage to initiate such a monitoring programme. The State Party further stresses the existing legal means of controlling the environmental impact of existing buildings and related facilities within the National Park. 

f)  Renewal of the management plan of Pirin National Park and tourism implementation plans

The State Party provides an update on the planned management plan renewal process, which is expected to be approved in 2014. The same is true for tourism implementation plans for Bansko and Dobrinishte buffer zones. The existing management plan of the property will stay in force until then, based on new legislation on the matter.

As mentioned above in this report a proposed amendment to the existing management plan is currently under consideration by the State Party. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that a proposed amendment of the management plan of Pirin National Park, which would permit further skiing developments inside the Bansko buffer zone, is currently under consideration by the State Party. They also take note of the information provided by the State Party that Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) and Appropriate Assessments (AA) are to be undertaken with regard to the spatial and technical developments plans which will be developed, if the proposed amendment is approved.  They recommend to the Committee to request the State Party to ensure that the proposed amendment does not  contradict the 2010 Strategy for Sustainable Nature Tourism and that an appropriate monitoring mechanism for ski and other activities in the buffer zones is put in place, as requested by the Committee, before approval of the proposed amendment of the management plan and any further developments in the buffer zone. They also consider that the ESIA and AA, which would be undertaken with regard to the spatial and technical developments plans mentioned above, should rigorously evaluate the potential impacts  on the OUV and in particular the integrity of the property.

They also recommend that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to clearly confirm that no further areas within the property, outside the already excluded areas, will be permitted for ski or other similarly high-impact developments. They further recommend that the Committee reiterate its request that the State Party urgently demarcate, communicate and maintain the boundaries of the property and ensure that they are being respected.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.17

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.18 adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Notes that a proposed amendment to the management plan of Pirin National Park which would allow further skiing developments within the buffer zone of the property, is currently under consideration by the State Party;

4.  Requests the State Party to ensure that the proposed amendment is in line with the 2010 Strategy for Sustainable Nature Tourism and that an appropriate monitoring mechanism is put in place, as requested by the Committee and the 2011 Reactive monitoring mission, before approval of the proposed amendment;

5.  Also requests the State Party to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the development of the buffer zone, including consultations with stakeholders, and urges the State Party to ensure that these proposals will not negatively impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and in particular the integrity of the property;

6.  Reiterates its request to the State Party to confirm that no further ski development inside the property will be permitted and recalls 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;

7.  Urges the State Party to expedite the implementation of the outstanding recommendations of the 2011 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property which have not been fully implemented to date;

8.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.