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

N/A

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 2010

On 21 January 2010 the World Heritage Centre received a report on the state of conservation of the property by the State Party. The last decision of the World Heritage Committee (33 COM 7B.21) and several previous reports and Committee decisions have strongly voiced concerns about integrity and management and pointed out the need to address threats to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, in particular the impacts caused by expanding ski tourism. The Committee previously noted the possibility of inclusion of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

At its 29th session (Durban, 2005) the Committee invited the State Party "to bring forward a nomination" based on new boundaries which would better protect the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property. A corresponding proposal was submitted for consideration of the Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) but then withdrawn by the State Party, despite a favourable recommendation by IUCN. The State Party submitted the nomination again for consideration by the Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010). This report should therefore be considered in conjunction with the proposed extension of this property to be examined under agenda item 8. The parts of the report that refer to the resubmitted extension are not discussed below, as they have been further considered in relation to the nominated extension of the property.

a) Impacts of ski development

The State Party restates the background to the development of the Bansko ski zone that the extensions of ski zones were a necessary response to growing demand and that provisions for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and spatial planning referred to as "Territorial Arrangement Plan" (TAP) were met. In the case of Bansko, a legal concession for "construction and exploitation" was granted to private Yulen Company in 2001. The construction is reported as having been finished in 2007 with no construction currently taking place. The State Party considers that no works have been authorised that were not foreseen in the TAP.

The State Party report also notes that pressure to further expand ski resorts is addressed in the management plan approved in 2004 which prohibits the construction of ski facilities other than the ones licensed and approved under the above mentioned TAP. All development proposals are reported to be subject to Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments. As Pirin National Park is part of the European Natura 2000 site network, this is also a requirement under the Habitats Directive of the European Union. The State Party report also explicitly accepts that the continued ski development is a critical threat to the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property, as stated in the last Committee decision. Additional conservation issues are noted by the State Party which had previously not attracted major attention include waste water management and soil erosion related to ski development above the town of Bansko.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the development of ski facilities and the extension of tourism zones, in particular Bansko and Dobrinishte tourism zones within and adjacent to the property are the key concern regarding its State of Conservation. The development goes back to the beginning of the construction of Bansko Ski Resort in 1986 as detailed in various reports by IUCN and the World Heritage Centre. According to the most recent Committee decision on Pirin National Park the development has "repeatedly and significantly impacted" on the Outstanding Universal Value to an extent that the property "may be considered for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger".

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that it is important to differentiate between the impacts of the existing ski infrastructure and potential future developments. There are clear indications for a strong demand for further tourism development, such as the massive growth of the town of Bansko and investment proposals, such as the one commented on by the State Party in a letter to the World Heritage Centre of January 2009 in response to concerns expressed by non-governmental organizations.

As there are credible reports about past violations of TAP and EIA provisions, the existence of such plans and assessments does not necessarily equal protection on the ground. There is also a current infringement procedure by the Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission which should be taken into account in future monitoring.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that existing ski development continues to be the utmost concern that will require permanent monitoring, including as regards the impacts of off-piste, night and helicopter skiing, all of which are being advertised and practised in Bansko Resort according to marketing materials. Future sports or other events in the ski resorts literally on the boundary of Pirin National Park may also generate impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value and the integrity of the property.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that strong and effective protection and management to ensure no further ski development affects the property, is of the utmost importance, and that without this the Outstanding Universal Value of this property, whether extended or not, is certain to be irreversibly lost. IUCN also has noted in its evaluation of the extension of this property that a new management plan is under development for the period after the current plan expires in 2013. The process to develop the new management plan for the period post 2013 is planned to commence in 2010. In the past, the influence of the responsible authorities on the development of the Bansko ski resort appears to have been limited, given the repeated unauthorized modifications and violations of approved requirements within the existing property. In order to retain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, it will be essential for the State Party to ensure that the new management to be developed for the period post 2013 will not permit further ski development or construction of other facilities within the property (including its possible extension) and its buffer zone, nor extension of the tourism zone into the property.

b) Effective management of the property

According to the report by the State Party, the capacities to manage and protect the property are sufficient. After several years of substantial budget cuts, in particular as regards operational management activities, the funding level in 2009 has been reinstated to the levels at 2004. This situation is reported as appropriate to manage the acknowledged major threats associated with development proposals. Aside from skiing development, other threats, such as illegal logging and poaching, are described as less significant and manageable with the current capacities and resources. Traditional resource use such as grazing and collection of non-timber forest products are regulated in the management plan.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recognise the maintenance of management resources for the property, alongside the currently proposed extension. While the state of conservation report by the State Party states a positive trend and visible results of restoration efforts, the findings of a recent IUCN technical evaluation mission clearly indicate that results are still not fully achieved. The restoration technique of sowing grass on eroded slopes is mentioned but not described in detail. It would be important to find out whether native species are used for this purpose, which is preferable from a conservation perspective. Potential concerns not referred to in the State Party report include the impacts of horse-back riding and cycling and the use of snow mobiles and quad bikes, as also observed during the IUCN technical evaluation.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the existence of additional conservation issues, in particular soil erosion in ski areas, waste water management, illegal logging, poaching and to a lesser extent grazing and harvesting of non-timber forest products do not appear to pose a major threat at this point in time but should be monitored and reported on in the future. The management plan seems appropriate to address many of the concerns provided the State Party ensures its effective enforcement.

The conclusions of this report presented hereafter are fully compatible with the findings of the IUCN technical evaluation of the proposed extension of the property. Therefore the conclusions and the draft decisions derived from them purposefully overlap with the draft decisions proposed in relation to the nomination for extension.

In line with the 2009 Committee decision, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN re- emphasize that inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger, stemming from possible future developments within the property but also from outside the boundaries in case of continued impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property remains a real consideration; and in the absence of agreement on the proposed extension considers that the property as currently listed no longer can be seen to demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value, on either current standards, or in relation to its condition at the time of inscription on the World Heritage List. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the need for a governmental commitment at the highest levels, and beyond the Bulgarian Ministry for Environment and Water, as the development pressure that threaten the property from both within and outside its borders can only be dealt with by working across various sectors, and with all relevant ministries and local authorities committed to the conservation of Pirin National Park and avoiding any further damage to it.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 34 COM 7B.19

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B,

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

3. Recalling that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property has been repeatedly and significantly impacted by the development of ski facilities and ski runs, decides that any further development of 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;

4. Notes that this decision is related to the proposed extension of the property, to also be considered by the Committee at its 34th session in 2010 under agenda item 8;

5. 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 facilities within the property and its buffer zone, nor extension of the tourism zone into the property;

6. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission to the property in 2011 to assess the state of conservation of the property, and any agreed extension to it, with particular reference to its effective protection from inappropriate development and human use within and beyond its boundaries liable to have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value, including the conditions of integrity, of the property with a view to studying the possibility of establishing more appropriate buffer zones which meet the requirements stated in 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;

7. Also 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 effective protection from inappropriate development and human use within and beyond its boundaries, and the effective protection and management of the property, including the maintenance of adequate staff and financial resources, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011.

Decision Adopted: 34 COM 8B.5

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