(DF) Locals, Concessionaires Clash over Handling of Beaches in Sozopol Municipality

Bourgas, April 13 (BTA) – After the Smokinya North Beach in Sozopol Municipality (Southeastern Bulgaria) has been ploughed up for a second year in a row, outraged local residents have alerted the competent institutions. Photos and videos showing a tractor levelling the beach were circulated on social media at the end of last week. Environmental activist Atanas Roussev told National Radio that the beach concessionaire is breaking the law while the Environment Inspectorate is looking the other way. On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Mariyana Nikolova ordered a check into the case. A Tourism Ministry team will survey the coastline for any violations and will determine whether there are any grounds to penalize the concessionaire, the Ministry said in a press release. For its part, the Bourgas Regional Environment and Water Inspectorate has banned the use of heavy earthmoving equipment on the beach. Beach concessionaire Ivan Alexiev has denied any wrongdoing. He explained to the media that his workers were merely cleaning the beach of garbage and the debris of disused beach establishments, that the work was duly authorized, and that the sand dunes, which cannot be tampered with by law, had been staked off at 2.5 m by a cadastre firm and were being carefully preserved. On Tuesday, Sozopol Mayor Tihomir Yanakiev said that Town Hall had been notified by the concessionaires of eight beaches in the municipality about their plans to clean and prepare the beaches for the summer season, as required by their concession contracts. Yanakiev explained that town hall is not empowered to control the concession relations and said that aggressive beach cleaning is at variance with the Black Sea Coast Development Act, under which the natural landscape and the cultural and historical heritage must be protected. The Municipality has written to the Tourism Ministry, proposing a ban on the construction of levees on beaches that are not affected by erosion, a prohibition of sand laying by heavy or light machinery, and formulating a procedure for beach maintenance and sanitation. Later in the day, the Bourgas District Prosecution Office said it had ordered the Bourgas Regional Directorate of the Interior Ministry to conduct an immediate check into reports about ploughing up of the Smokinya Beach in Sozopol. The purpose is to prevent and discontinue any administrative violations of the Black Sea Coast Development Act and to avert and rectify their harmful consequences by taking administrative measures against natural or legal persons, of which the Prosecution Office must be notified by April 19. In an apparently unrelated development which, however, might be seen as retaliation for the ecologists’ resistance to the commercialization of the beaches, Yanakiev has appointed a commission to check campsites and camping areas near beaches within the municipality, follow up on alerts about irregular camping and take action if any such is detected, Town Hall said in a press release on Monday. NV/DT, LG /МЙ/