Environmentalists Urge Discontinuation of Procedures for Struma Motorway Kresna Gorge Section

January 21 (BTA) - Environmental organizations on Tuesday
 urged the Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) to discontinue the
contract award procedures for building Lot 3.2 of the Struma
Motorway via the Kresna Gorge.

Speaking at a BTA-hosted news conference, Petko Kovachev of the
Green Policy Institute (GPI) proposed drawing up detailed site
development plans for two possible designs for Lot 3.2. One of
the designs is a split road, with one carriageway going through
the Kresna Gorge and the other bypassing the gorge on the east.
The second design referred to by Kovachev involves the building
of a long tunnel.

The GPI further called for a new contractor selection procedure
for Lot 3.2. The Institute also wants the environmental impact
report to be rewritten in accordance with European Commission
recommendations and to be put up for public consultation.

On January 15, the RIA said that Bulgaria had withdrawn its
application for EU co-financing for the construction of the
Struma Motorway section via the Kresna Gorge (Lot 3.2). The RIA
added that the institutions concerned will prepare an
application which will take account of the environmental policy
priorities of the new European Commission. Back in October, the
Commission notified Bulgaria that EU funding will not be made
available for Lot 3.2, because the road is planned to pass
through protected areas, and also because the construction time
schedule and the estimated costs are unreasonable. The
government has approved the above-mentioned "split road" design
for this motorway section, but a number of NGOs have protested
against it as they fear that the damage to protected species and
 habitats in the Kresna Gorge would be too big.

At Tuesday's news conference, the GPI's Petko Kovachev estimated
 that it is possible to choose an adequate alternative and
complete the public consultations by this autumn, and the RIA
can be ready with a new EU co-financing application by the end
of the year. This will allow construction of Lot 3.2 to begin
next year.

Kovachev noted that even before construction is completed, it is
 necessary to take measures against road accidents in the Kresna
 Gorge and to protect biodiversity in the area, because one of
the European Commission's infringement procedures against
Bulgaria is for irregularities which have already been committed
 and have impaired biodiversity.

Assoc. Prof. Stoyan Beshkov of the National Museum of Natural
History pointed out that there is no other place like the Kresna
 Gorge in Europe. It covers a very small area but is home to a
remarkable variety of habitats and species. It is a highly
significant area for the protection of butterflies in Europe and
 is bisected by a major bird migration route known as Via
Aristotelis. National law has designated two protected areas in
the gorge.

Daniel Popov, who works with an organization called For the
Earth, said that the southern part of the Lot 3.2 project should
 be redrawn and the future road should not pass through a place
called Debela Zemya. A slight change of the route will be enough
 to bypass it. This option will completely satisfy EU
institutions, Popov said.

According to Kovachev, the environmentalists' proposals will not
 delay the project beyond the 2027 deadline which was envisioned
 in the recently withdrawn application. RI/VE

Source: Sofia