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Bulgarian Coastline Threatened by Runaway Tourism

Bulgaria’s coastal tourism industry may be thriving at the cost of irreplaceable environmental resources. The buildup in recent years of high-rise hotels, roads and other tourism infrastructure around the popular Sunny Beach resort along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast has some environmental advocates concerned about the impact of development on natural resources and regional aesthetics.

Sand, a popular component of building materials, is also integral to ecosystems in the area that house rare indigenous animal and plant species. Professor Simeon Micov, who worked on the resort in its early years, recently told the BBC that a new sand quarry is being planned for the western part of Sunny Beach. “I don’t even want to think of the damage,” he said. “There are 18 rare plants here, five of which are listed in the European record of endangered species.”

Meanwhile, environmental advocates predict that new roads leading to resort areas will result in changes to animal and plant populations in the vicinity of the roads, along with erosion and increased litter and waste along major highways.

According to the BBC, there is no law in place to limit development on the Black Sea coast. Proposed legislation is being delayed (amid suggestions of corruption), and may be passed too late to protect the area from overdevelopment.

During a June meeting of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization, Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg called tourism one of the country’s top priorities. He said the number of foreign visitors to Bulgaria had increased by 50% over the last four years, in turn boosting tourism-related employment. More tourists come to Bulgaria from the rest of Europe than from any other continent, and some politicians suggest that social interaction generated by tourism will aid the country’s bid to join the European Union.

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