Tuesday Feb 20

Kadarere—The Fight for the Last Pristine Stretch of Beach in Bulgaria on the Black Sea

Bulgarian Black Sea coast became over constructed in the first decade of 21st
century. Byala is a small town, with 2000 inhabitants on the coastline.
Four miles north-east of the town is Karadere, one of the last remained wild
areas on the coast, that the town Council plans to develop.

The preservation of the area is supported across the country by activists, citizens and tourists’ professional organizations and some of the citizens of Byala. The mayor, the municipal councilors, the investors and some of the residents are in favor of the development of the area. The future of Karadere will be decided by May 2018 at the latest with the development of the City Master Plan – it will define the area either as preserved, or as a resort.

Remote with no roads, access to water, electricity or mobile phone coverage, Karadere remained outside the inventors’ grasp. The first development project for 4000 apartments had been stopped by the financial crisis in 2009.

The battle for Karadere started in 2014 when an offshore company obtained a Golden Investment Certificate to build a resort with four hotels, including recreational and leisure activity areas. One of the architects who developed the project happened to be brother of the leader of the ruling party at that time. The Certificate had been granted despite the project not having the compulsory Environmental impact assessment and being in violation of both environmental legislation and the

Investment Encouragement Act (IEA). The government stepped back from signing the investment agreement after thousands went into the streets to protest, furious at the apparent corruption scheme and outraged at the violation of laws. We managed to prove that the investor was not complying with the IEA since the jobs promised were only for the construction period and the hotels were meant to be luxury seasonal apartments for sell.

Several months later the company sold half of its property and a month later a new project for a luxury camping resort with 2 -3 floor villas had been approved by the Regional Department of Environment. The Department withdrew its decision, and the company appealed the rejection to the court. The case was won at the Supreme Administrative court a year later.

Although the construction has been stopped for now, the opportunities to restart further developments remain. Research of the documentation filed for building in the area proved that over the years all necessary documentshave been issued and serious violation of the legislation have occurred. Starting from the city master plan, the statutes protecting the forests in the area have been altered, converting them into urban zones in order to facilitate the construction permits. Despite the violations, everythingremains permissible, even if illegal until challenged in court or until the institutions are charged. Currently most of the construction permits have been weeded out. Nonetheless, the major authority allowing development of the area – the master plan and the land statutes -- remain into force.

Now the story comes to its final chapters. The new City master plan will decide the future of the area. This time it will certainly comply with the legislative framework, and there will be fewer grounds to sustain challenges. There is a third way, although an unlikely option – to introduce a special amendment for protecting the nonconstructed areas on the coast under the Black Sea Coast Development Act. A national representative survey of Gallup International conducted showed that 82 % of the citizens support a ban of construction in the remaining wild areas. Yet none of the political groups have committed to introduce the amendment because of the interest of the developers and the investments they made.

Karadere matters to many different groups of people - citizens of Byala municipality, tourists in Karadere, friends of the area, and residents who have properties surrounding Karadere.

The activists for protecting Karadere live across the country. An active part of them are organized via social networks in Facebook. The “Save Karadere” group has 5721 members (averaging over 10 new members per week). The activists have different background, love the area,
value sustainable development, are against corruption, and in favor of enforcement of environmental laws. The love of the area unites them as a community with coherent identity. There is as well a smaller, operational group, Will Save Karadere, with 30 members with different backgrounds – ecologists, economists, teachers, and lawyers. The success of the campaign has attracted ad hoc experts who volunteer when needed.

The citizens in Byala live 270 miles from Sofia, but some of the activists in Save Karadere group live there, others spend the summer there (I travel there frequently).

The citizens from Byala, some of whom moved to bigger cities, are still engaged with the area. The informal talks
face-face during the summer demonstrate that the majority of the citizens support the preservation of Karadere, but they are afraid to voice opposition publicly that is contrary to the mayor. The main source of income is tourism, many of the residents have guest houses or family hotels, and the permits – therefore their livelihoods -- depend on the local government.

A third group emerged during the spring and the summer in 2017 – residents, having properties in the area. There are over 100 citizens of other countries, the majority with Russian backgrounds, but also French and Czech who we met in Byala and who have an active position in relation
to Karadere. They are also in favor of protecting the area and see its preservation as an asset for their investment.

Would it be possible to organize the citizens of Byala so that they publicly oppose the local government their business depends on, and will we manage to raise a broad public campaign strong enough to set an amendment of the agenda of Parliament? We will see in 2018. The future of Karadere depends on it!

 

 

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