Bulgaria destroying "Emine" Important Bird Area (1 Viewer)


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Situated in the middle of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, almost halfway between the cities of Varna and Burgas is a wonderful headland where the Stara Planina mountains come to an abrupt end, jutting out into the Black Sea. This region is of unique international importance for birds, and is designated not only as an Important Bird Area (IBA) but also a NATURA 2000 site under both the EU Birds' Directive and EU Habitats' Directive.

This is a very brief outline of the region's ornithological importance:
"The territory of Emine supports 218 bird species, 60 of which are listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria (1985). Of the birds occurring there 96 species are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (BirdLife International, 2004), 8 of them being listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 29 in SPEC 2 and 59 in SPEC 3 as species threatened in Europe. The area provides suitable habitats for 79 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 73 are listed also in Annex I of the Birds Directive. It is located on the Via Pontica migration flyway and has international importance as a typical bottleneck migration site for the pelicans, storks and birds of prey that use it. Before crossing the Balkan Mountain the migrating birds concentrate precisely in this spot, as it is the lowest part of the mountain and the easiest obstacle to overcome. The storks and pelicans often fly directly across Burgas bay. The forest is used by migrants – mainly birds of prey – as a roosting and feeding place. The plain terrain south of the mountain slopes is used by roosting and passing migrants to rise with the help of air thermals. The rocky cliffs and the marine area of Emine are one of the few in Bulgaria where the Mediterranean Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan regularly occurs. The region is one of the few in Bulgaria where the Osprey Pandion haliaetus breeds. Emine is one of the most important breeding sites in the country on a European Union scale also for the Olive-tree warbler Hippolais olivetorum, Woodlark Lullula arborea, Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata, Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, Roller Coracias garrulus, Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes, Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleshanka, as well as for the Common Tern Sterna hirundo and Little Tern S. albifrons. During the winter the marine area of the site holds significant numbers of the Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica, Pochard Aythya ferina, etc."

Unfortunately this wonderful region, also known as Emine-Irakli, and one of the last truly wild places now left along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, caught the eyes of a development company called "Swiss Properties". In total contravention of both Bulgarian and international laws and directives, the local authorities in the town of Nessebar gave the developers the green light to build a massive new holiday complex occupying 20% of the protected territory. When Bulgarian environmentalists discovered that construction work was starting, they raised the alarm, and the regional environmental inspectorate ordered an immediate halt to the works.

Unfortunately, this order has been completely ignored, and during the last couple of days the developers have pressed ahead at lightning speed to destroy the region, felling the unique riverine forests that provided vital shelter to migrants and breeding birds. You can see pictures of what has happened here:

Bulgarian environmental organisations have been pleeding with the ministry of the environment and the local police to intervene and stop this blatant illegal destruction of one of Europe's most important bird sites. But the authorities have simply turned their backs and refused to do a thing. Once again it seems that the hands of the authorities are as dirty as the quagmire which has been created, and that corruption and money-laundering is still being tolerated in Bulgaria at the expense of environmental protection.

Bulgarian environmental organisations are calling on everyone planning to visit Bulgaria this year to boycott the Nessebar Municipality and not to visit the town of Nessebar or stay in the region. This includes keeping away from Sunny Beach and the other resorts and towns along this section of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.

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