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 2011

On 25 January 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides information on the status of tourism developments in the Bansko ski zone as well as other threats, and includes a summary of the State Party response to NGO concerns regarding inappropriate developments within the property that resulted in an infringement procedure initiated by the European Commission, in line with Decision 34 COM 8B.5.

a) Developments in the Bansko tourism zone

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that two construction projects in the Chalin Valog area of the Bansko ski area located in the buffer zone were approved in 2007, namely: i) construction of a four-seat ski lift; and ii) construction of an engineering facility (tunnel) passing through the ski run at an elevation of 1185 to 1190 m. NGO concerns related to these projects resulted in the initiation of an infringement procedure by the European Commission. The State Party reports that the construction of the ski lift replaces an existing ski drag, and falls within the provisions of the Territorial Arrangement Plan (TAP). The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the 2004 management plan, which remains in effect until August 2014, prohibits the construction of new ski facilities in the national park, except those approved under the 2000 TAP for the Bansko ski zone. However, they note that the replacement of a ski drag with a four-seat ski lift significantly increases the capacity of the existing facility, which is likely to result in increased tourism pressure and impact the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

The State Party notes that in 2010 two additional development proposals were approved in the Bansko ski area located within the property’s buffer zone, namely: i) the replacement of an existing four-seat ski lift with a six-seat ski lift from Banderishka poljana to Kolarski pat; and ii) the replacement of two existing ski drags with a four-seat lift at Platoto. The World Heritage Centre requested additional information on these new developments in a letter dated 28 March 2011. In its response dated 11 April 2011, the State Party notes that the existing ski drags at Platoto and the replacement of the Banderishka polyana – Kolarski pat ski lift were foreseen in the TAP, is motivated by safety concerns, and were therefore granted permission. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the approval of these developments and that the proposals are not a like-for-like replacement of the lifts purely for safety reasons, but include an upgrade in their capacity that is likely to exacerbate tourism pressures and impact the OUV of the property. They also note that, from the available documentation, it is unclear whether the capacity upgrades of ski lifts approved in 2010 are provided for in the TAP, and that those could be considered as further developments of ski facilities within the property’s buffer zone. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the forthcoming mission to the property should examine this issue and make a recommendation on whether the property meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Committee Decision 34 COM 7B.19 and Paragraph 180(b)(ii) of the Operational Guidelines.

b) Ecologically sustainable tourism

In 2010, the State Party received financial support from the UNESCO Participatory Programme for the development of a strategy for sustainable tourism. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note these positive developments and encourage the State Party to continue to explore and enhance options for ecologically sustainable tourism.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that a maximum of 7800 skiers are permitted in the Bansko ski zone under the management plan, while the specialized Bulgarian media and NGO reports provide information that Bansko’s tourism accommodation capacity is between 12,000 and 20,000 beds, which appears to be significantly higher than the capacity of ski facilities. This situation is reported to fuel the development of ski lifts and ski runs in Bansko ski zone. They have also received information, from the Bulgarian media and NGOs, that in February 2011, Bulgarian companies and the municipalities of Bansko and Razlog re-announced plans for large-scale developments of ski facilities and the need for amendments in the management plan to allow new constructions within the property. In its letter dated 11 April 2011, the State Party notes that no additional development projects have been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Water. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the Committee in Decision 34 COM 7B.19urged the State Party to ensure that the new management plan does not allow further ski development or construction of other facilities within the property and its buffer zone, nor extension of the tourism zone into the property.

c) Adequacy of staff and financial resources

The State Party report provides a summary of the property’s budget between 2004 – 2010. From this summary it is clear that the financial resources provided by the state budget remain fairly constant. However, the level of funding for management and restoration activities in the property fluctuates considerably and was significantly reduced in 2010. This reduction is attributed to the current economical crisis and associated tightened financial policies. In its report, the State Party notes that it is a potential beneficiary of several EU programmes, and that it envisages applying for funds from these sources. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party be encouraged to restore management funding to 2009 levels.

d) Other conservation issues

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note with satisfaction the State Party’s report that in 2010 there were few reported cases of illegal logging, poaching and use of non-timber natural resources, and that these activities appear to be well controlled.

With regard to off-piste skiing and the use of snow mobiles and All Terrain Vehicles (AVTs) off designated tracks, the State Party reports a growing number of violations, which it is addressing by awareness raising campaigns, and by increasing patrols in winter time. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party should be requested to ensure that off-piste skiing and the use of snow mobiles and ATVs is strictly controlled to minimize the impacts of these activities on the property’s OUV.

IUCN notes that it has received reports that the operator of Bansko ski zone uses chemicals in the production of artificial snow, which is in violation of the management plan for Pirin National Park, which includes the Bansko ski zone. This has apparently resulted in nitrogen and nitrate levels which significantly exceed the approved standards. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN wish the draw the Committee’s attention on the need to immediately halt the use of chemicals.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the OUV of the property has been repeatedly and significantly impacted by the development of ski facilities and ski runs. When the property was extended in 2010 (Decision 34 COM 8B.5), the Bansko and Dobrinishte tourism zones were excluded from the property and included instead in a new buffer zone. The World Heritage Committee requested that the State Party abandon any further ski development within the property and its buffer zone, and also decided that any further development of ski facilities, ski runs, or associated infrastructure would result in the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger (Decision 34 COM 7B.19).

However, in 2010 the State Party approved the replacement and capacity upgrade of two ski lifts in the Bansko ski area within the property’s buffer zone; namely the Banderishka poljana to Kolarski pat and the Platoto ski lifts. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the approved developments are not a like-for-like replacement, but include a clear capacity upgrade that is likely to add to tourism pressures and impact the OUV of the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that it is unclear whether the capacity upgrade of ski lifts approved in 2010 are provided for under the TAP. These developments could constitute a further development of ski facilities within the property’s buffer zone. They therefore recommend that the forthcoming joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission examine this issue and make a recommendation on the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Committee Decision 34 COM 7B.19 and Paragraph 180(b)(ii) of the Operational Guidelines. Environmental Impact Assessments for the above and any future developments should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, including an assessment of the proposals’ potential direct, indirect and cumulative impact on the property’s OUV, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also recommend that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to ensure that the new management plan does not allow further ski development or construction of other facilities within the property and its buffer zone, nor extension of the tourism zone into the property. They further recommend that the Committee also request the State Party to commission an independent assessment of the capacity of the buffer zone in relation to its role in protecting the property’s OUV.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.21

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decisions 34 COM 7B.19 and 34 COM 8B.5, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Also recalling that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property has been repeatedly and significantly impacted by the development of ski facilities and ski runs within the property and its buffer zone,

4. Expresses serious concern about the recent approval of the replacement and capacity upgrade of two ski facilities in the property's buffer zone, and recalls its Decision, taken at its 34th session following the 2009 evaluation mission to the property, that any additional development of ski facilities, 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;

5. Urges the State Party to halt further ski developments in the buffer zone until the World Heritage Committee can consider these at its 36th session in 2012 on the basis of the report of the forthcoming World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, and requests the State Party to inform the World Heritage Committee of any new planned developments, and to provide an Environmental Impact Assessment for all development proposals in the property and its buffer zone, including an assessment of the proposals' potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the property's Outstanding Universal Value, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

6. Reiterates its request to the State Party to ensure that the new management plan does not allow further ski development or construction of other facilities within the property and its buffer zone, nor extension of the tourism zone into the property;

7. Encourages the State Party to commission an independent assessment of the capacity of the property and its buffer zone in order to set clear usage limits for the Bansko ski zone;

8. Also requests the forthcoming World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property to determine whether the recent capacity upgrades of ski facilities in the property's buffer zone are foreseen in the Territorial Arrangement Plan (TAP) and make a recommendation on the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and further requests the State Party to provide the mission with an English translation of the TAP;

9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including confirmation that all inappropriate developments have been halted, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36thsession in2012.