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Ski resort threatens national park
20 Jan 2008
The development of a large ski resort in Serbia is threatening the flora and fauna of the country’s largest national park.
The Association for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Stara Planina is protesting against the construction of the new ski resort inside the Stara Planina National Park. They say that the construction is in violati on of six Serbian laws as well as international environmental conventions signed by Serbia. The UIAA supports local organisations in their protests.
You can find a photo gallery with pictures of the park and the construction work here.
Stara Planina Nature Park is the largest protected area in Serbia and is meant to have the highest level of protection. It was declared a nature park in 1997, in order to protect the natural and geological heritage, gene pool, rare species and ecosystem diversity of Serbia and the Balkan Peninsula. In the park there are mountain peat meadows, one of the rarest and most vulnerable ecosystems in the world. The park is also the home of many rare species which are meant to be under government protection. This includes the rare flower Winged Bell, which was only discovered 16 years ago and has near been made extinct by the building work. Nine plant species which grows in Stara Planina are on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. There are also rare birds and mammals in the park, including the very near extinct Snow Vole.
The Babin Zub ski resort will have about 40 lifts, nearly 30 ski slopes (in total more than 100 km long) and two large tourist complexes with a capacity of up to 40.000 people. The construction work has caused landslides and erosion (see photo).
The development started in 2006, and the first ski lift opened in December the same year. A coalition of ecological societies and associations in Serbia, including the PSS- the Mountaineering Association of Serbia-, are now working to stop the next large faze of the construction, which is meant to happen in 2008. They are trying to get the attention of the international community and the UIAA has given our support.
If you agree that the ski resort development is a threat to Serbia’s nature and should be stopped, you can show your support with the protesters by signing a petition or write a message to Serbian authorities.
The development is budgeted to cost Serbian tax payers 31.213.000 Euros in 2008, while the total cost is projected to be between 260 million and 300 million Euros. The public funding will be used to build ski slopes, infrastructure, ski lifts and equipment for making artificial snow. The authorities say that the development will improve the standard of living for locals by giving them opportunities for work. The protesters on the other hand believe that the ski resort will not be economically sustainable. Climate change will reduce the amount of snow in the area and the resort will face competition from other ski resort in the region and in Slovenia.
The protesters claim that the money would be much better spent on other projects which could provide jobs without damaging nature. Instead of ski tourism, the region should develop so-called ethno-, agro- and eco-tourism.The money budgeted for the ski resort could instead give five hundred Stara Planina house-holds 20.000 Euros each to develop eco-friendly tourism projects. Alternatives include traditional animal husbandry, organic farming, branding and marketing of typical local agricultural products (sheep products, honey, wool carpets, medicinal plants, authentic handicrafts, dairy products) and provision of services to visitors. Eco-tourism has been recommended by the World Conservation Union as the only acceptable kind of tourism development for this region.
You can find more information (in English and Serbian) and photographs here