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Strandzha Saved For Now

After a five-hour discussion on April 2, the interdepartmental committee of the Ministry of Environment and Water Affairs (MOEW) turned down the environmental assessment of the amendments of Tsarevo municipality master plan for re-design, the coalition of 30 non-governmental environmental organisations To Sustain the Nature in Bulgaria (SNB) said in a statement.

Contacted by The Sofia Echo, MOEW spokesperson Vanya Ivanova was not available for comment.

The revision of the master plan has to be completed within two months, MOEW's committee decided, as quoted by SNB.

The initial document foresaw almost 100 per cent construction of the seaside part of Strandja natural park and legalising construction of Golden Pearl development near the village of Varvara, which environmental activists say is illegal. They have organised various protests and street blockages in 2007, which finally lead to amendments to the Protected Areas Act and temporary salvation of this part of the park.
However, Tsarevo municipal council approved the amended master plan, which covers part of the Strandja natural park. The document endorsed doubling the constructed part of the park up to 931.8ha, construction of 42 000 apartments and hotels with 15 000 beds (double the number in Bansko resort in Pirin Mountains), SNB said.
Tsarevo municipality has a population is 2953 people - thus each resident would have received 0.32ha of constructed land 14 apartments per capita. For the population of Rezovo village, bordering the Black sea and nearest to Turkey border, 50 apartments would have fallen to each resident, while to each Sinemorets resident would have fallen 25 apartments on average.

The only officials to vote in favour of the environmental assessment and the assessment of legal compatibility of the amendments to the master plan were deputy environment minister Chavdar Georgiev and three representatives of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, which paid for the master plan, SNB said.

The national office for environmental protection, as well as State Forest Agency and Strandja natural park directorate strongly opposed the amendments.

However, the decision on Strandja natural park is still pending. It is in the hands of environment minister Djevdet Chakurov, who has to approve the environmental assessment report, although he is not bound by the interdepartmental committee's decision, SNB said.

The environmentalists further claim that the master plan was developed without an approved specialised development scheme for the Black Sea coastal territory, which is one of the requirements of the Bulgarian Black Sea Coastline Spatial Planning Act. Regulations to limit admissible recreational capacities of the resort residential areas and settlement, resorts, holiday developments and villa zones have not been developed either, although they are required by law.