Reported approval by Nessebur municipality of investment plans in the protected area at Irakli, a wild beach area on Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea coast, has environmentalists up in arms.
Irakli has been at the centre of struggles between conservationists, authorities and developers for several years. Long seen as one of the few remaining relatively unspoilt areas of the country’s coastline, Irakli was cited as one of four cases when the European Commission decided in October 2009 to proceed against Bulgaria for allowing indiscriminate construction in protected areas in the mountains and at the seaside. The commission said that Bulgaria had allowed the destruction of important habitats in the Irakli – Emona area.
Before this, attempts at development at Irakli led to the formation of a pressure group, To Save Irakli, which complained repeatedly to the European Commission and was involved in public protests, court actions and tangles with a succession of environment ministers. In recent years, environment ministers issued a succession of one-year bans on construction at Irakli because it had been slated for inclusion in the EU’s Natura 2000 network of conservation sites.
On August 23, based on allegations by To Save Irakli, reports were published in daily Dnevnik and news website mediapool that Nessebur had approved investment plans including projects by Serdica Properties Real Estate Investment Trust – owned by Vessela Kyuleva, widow of assassinated banker Emil Kyulev – and Proin Ltd, owned by Sofia municipality chief architect Petar Dikov, for developments at Irakli.
According to the group, the project by Kyuleva’s company would result in 60 houses with 360 beds, an office building, two restaurants, a shop, two outdoor swimming pools and parking. Dikov’s company planned to build 24 bungalows with 145 beds, an outdoor swimming pool and a parking area.
To Save Irakli said that the Kyuleva project would be "right in the middle of the beach" and there was a lack of clarity where the water would come for a planned landscaped lawn.
Mediapool said that the territorial plan for the municipality of Nessebur had expired, because it had been adopted in 1997 and had been valid for 10 years.
The conservationist group alleged that the fact that Nessebur municipality and the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters (RIEW) in Bourgas saw no problems with the planned developments was "criminal" and should expose them to sanctions.
Dnevnik said that RIEW Bourgas officials would meet in September to discuss the plans by Serdica Properties and Proin. The procedure provides for the council to give its opinion and for environmental inspectors to decide whether projects should be approved or rejected.
Reportedly, the investors propose that water for the developments at the resort either should come from the nearby mining village of Banya, or from a conduit from the Vaya river or by building a water supply link from the coastal village of Obzor. Waste water will be processed on site and collected in a container after treatment.
Legally, there are strict limitations on building in the areas of Irakli and Emona, which are not only part of Natura 2000 but also protected under the EU’s directives on birds and habitats.
In a statement on its website, the To Save Irakli group said that it was paradoxical that there was a decision to invest in construction amid the "biggest crisis for the construction business".
It levelled serious allegations against Nessebur municipality.
The conservationist group said that unless the Government or Nessebur municipality agreed to stop the developments, the group was ready to "defend its civil rights in any way permitted by law".
Zoya Dimitrova, representing the two companies, told Dnevnik that the scale of the project would hardly exceed 200 beds.
There was a delay in the projects because of outstanding questions of funding, "possibly there will be greater clarity on the investment early next year," Dimitrova said.
The project would comply with all environmental standards and the bungalows would be "advertised as an eco-village," according to Dimitrova.
Daniel Sabev, manager of Serdica Consult Properties, the company that manages Serdica Properties REIT, said that the investor also had an interest in protecting the valuable nature at Irakli.
According to Dnevnik, Dikov was on holiday and attempts to reach him by mobile phone for comment had not been successful.