Bulgaria Declares Its Firsts NATURA 2000 Zone, Land Owners Urged to Claim Compensations

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A draft order has been issued designating Bulgaria's first zone for inclusion in the
Europe-wide network of protected areas NATURA 2000, BTA reports. It will be subject to a month-long public consultation beginning in the coming days, Environment Minister Djevdet Chakurov said Tuesday. Once the order takes effect, the owners of the lands falling within the protected zone will be able to claim their compensations even before the end of this year, Chakurov said.

The first NATURA 2000 zone, Souha Reka [Dry River], has a total area of just under 25,500 ha in the municipalities of Silistra, Tervel, Dobrich and Kroushari in Northeastern Bulgaria. The Souha Reka land owners face 11 restrictions, including a ban on land cultivation during the birds' mating season, on the felling of hollow trees, on rock climbing during the mating season, on paragliding, on the introduction of alien species to
the zone and on use of chemicals and other non-selective means of forest protection, to mention but a few.

The scope of restrictions could be either narrowed or broadened during the public consultation.

The draft order does not have a ban on construction and any development projects for the protected zone will be assessed under a special regulation for establishing compliance with the NATURA 2000 standards.

To offset possible losses from the each of the restrictions, land owners are entitled to compensations which they can claim as soon as the order takes effect. The compensations can be as high as 710 euro/ha and include 25 euro/ha for scything (rather than machine mowing), 150 euro/ha for hoeing, 39 euro/ha for not using chemical fertilizers and 100 euro/ha for delaying grass harvesting. In addition, grants are available for projects for
development of rural tourism and for refurbishment of small chalets.

Special commissions including officers of the local environmental inspectorates, forestry management authorities and the local governments will control the compliance with the
NATURA 2000 restrictions.

The Environment Minister said that before the end of October the Council of Ministers will consider proposed NATURA 2000 zones for which the decision had been delayed and because of which Bulgaria submitted to Brussels an incomplete list of protected sites.

The chairman of the parliamentary environmental committee, Georgi Bozhinov, commented that investment in the protected zones brings a greater gains than the quick profit which investors in the Black Sea coastal area, for example, are after. He stressed the importance of improving investors' awareness of the opportunities that NATURA 2000 offers for them.

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