Dan Pullen is a regular contributor to this blog and, back in June, he was telling us that our work to get vital migratory and wintering bird sites in Bulgaria properly protected had advanced with further action being taken by the European Commission against the Bulgarian Government.  The next instalment is looking very positive, here’s Dan (our International sites casework officer) to take up the story.

I’m very pleased to be able to report some very positive developments - the Bulgarian Government has now taken action to protect its internationally important sites effectively, and put in place proper regulation of renewable energy development which can be very damaging when built in the wrong place.

Bulgaria has started to implement the regulations in its new National Renewable Energy Action Plan 2011 – 2020. The ecological assessment statement covering the National Plan places clear restrictions on going ahead with renewable energy projects in Natura 2000 sites (these are the most important sites for wildlife at the scale of the European Union)  and in areas important for the conservation of endangered species.

The construction of windfarms and solar parks in all Natura 2000 sites is now prohibited. The Plan also blocks the construction of wind turbines in the whole geographical areas of Dobrudzha and Eastern Rhodopes (key regions for migratory, breeding and wintering birds), as well as within a six kilometre buffer of 26 Natura 2000 sites important to birds of prey and within a radius of two kilometres of 25 sites important for the conservation of waterbirds. The construction of hydropower plants in Natura 2000 sites important for the conservation of endangered fish species is also prohibited. This applies to all new projects.

This is great news.

And it gets better!  We have news from Stoycho Stoychev, Conservation Director at our Bulgarian BirdLife partner, BSPB, that the restrictions of the new plan are already being successfully applied. A recent example is the decision of the Director of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water in Bourgas, who recently terminated the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure for the construction of a wind farm with 10 turbines within a prohibited area along the migratory flyway near the Black Sea.

White pelicans gain height as they migrate through Bulgaria - the new plan should help make their jouney safer. Photo S.Spasov/BSPB

With the implementation of the National Renewable Energy Action Plan, the Bulgarian government is making a serious step towards planning the development of the sector in a manner not threatening to biodiversity.  We need to keep up our efforts ensure that the damage already done to places like the Kaliakra Peninsula is made good, but we hope this great news means we are turning a corner in our efforts to ensure Bulgaria’s internationally important natural heritage gets the protection it deserves.

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