Slippery slope ahead for ski resorts in Eastern Europe

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Slippery slope ahead for ski resorts in Eastern Europe

Postby gushter » Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:19 pm

The World Wildlife Fund have just published (13 Jan 2009) the following article on their website:

Slippery slope ahead for ski resorts in Central and Eastern Europe

New research suggests that ambitious plans for dozens of new ski resorts in Central and Eastern Europe could be constructed on slippery financial slopes.

The potential financial uncertainty on the future viability of the resorts is also adding to concerns that some of Europe’s last wilderness areas will be damaged to little purpose.

Up to two-thirds of Alpine ski areas could go out of business due to a lack of snow on current climate change projections, which see temperature rises of between 2 and 5.2 degrees Celsius in coming decades, research from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has suggested.

The WWF report suggests that a similar fate may be in store for proposed and ongoing developments in Central and Eastern Europe, and that the cost of these white elephants will be greater than just financial.

In Romania alone, 102 resorts or developments have been planned, and a project in Ukraine is looking to develop into one of Europe’s largest ski resorts, with 100,000 beds and 66 lifts at a total cost of some €3 billion.

“Construction of ski facilities removes large areas of forest to make way for ski pistes, access roads and infrastructure, reducing and fragmenting habitat for wildlife,” said Andreas Beckman, Deputy Director of WWF’s Danube-Carpathian programme.

“It is irresponsible for governments to not only allow but actively support such damage when there is very likely no economic future for these resorts.” Many of the ski development projects rely on very significant funding from state and EU sources.

“If the real reason is a very short term bonanza of chalet speculation then it will be an economic, environmental and social tragedy,” Beckmann concluded.

Most proposed ski resort projects for Central and Eastern Europe are located at below 1500 meters above sea level, a threshold considered in the Alps to be the lowest point at which a ski resort can be currently considered viable in terms of snowfall for skiing.

The Carpathian Mountains where many of the ski areas are planned is home to over half of Europe’s largest remaining populations of brown bears, wolves and lynxes. Ancient beech forests stretching from Slovakia to Ukraine are among Europe’s last remaining natural forests and were recently listed as a World Heritage Site.

Some ski developments are illegal as well as unwise; a number of Bulgarian projects are being built in protected areas including Rila and Pirin National Parks. Governments are not necessarily at the forefront of enforing their own laws, either. Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev opened an illegally constructed ski lift in September.

In Romania, a state programme plans for construction of ski areas in eight of the country’s national parks, including Retezat and Piatra Craiului, the country’s flagship protected areas.

A common problem with ski developments throughout the region are the poor quality of many environmental impacts assessments, many of which do not meet EU standards.

Ski resorts with only short term prospects of natural snow also raise significant cost and environmental concerns if they try to keep themselves going with artificial snow, the report found.

The 3,100 snow cannons around Europe, designed to maintain the quality of ski slopes, consume some 260,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) worth of electricity annually. This is an amount that could power a city of 150,000 people for a year.

“The least responsible thing that public authorities can do is to ensure that the economic aspects of ski resort development justify the environmental damage,” Beckmann said.

“Much better would be working out how countries and communities can get long term value from their environmental assets without destroying them.”

They have also produced a study summarizing the current threats posed by skiing in Central & Eastern Europe entitled 'White Elephants for Green Mountains':

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Postby stevetheyorky » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:27 am

One of the very few benefits of the "credit crunch" is that hopefully it will put a hold on the unrestrained development

Economics wins every time

Last edited by stevetheyorky on Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby oldtimer » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:37 am

Fingers crossed then Steve :lol:

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Postby Moodyblue » Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:06 pm

This is all assuming that the climate change predictions are correct, and no-one really knows, do they ?

Also, these people do have a vested interest in stopping development, don't they ?


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Postby Pirol » Wed Mar 04, 2009 11:06 am

Bulgaria Ski Development Causes Pirin Environmental Worry4 March 2009, Wednesday

From IPS (Inter Press Service)

By Claudia Ciobanu

The World Ski Cup for women last weekend was organized in Bulgaria at a ski resort whose development is partially illegal, and which is damaging a world heritage site.

A report published by the Save Pirin Coalition and endorsed by several environmental organizations in Bulgaria claims that the development of the Bansko Ski Zone has severely damaged the Pirin National Park, one of the two United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage sites located in Bulgaria. Bansko is a recently expanded and modernized ski resort in south-western Bulgaria, 160 km from capital Sofia in the Pirin Mountains.

Measurements made by experts from Save Pirin, and information provided by the management of the Pirin Park show that construction has been carried out on 247 hectares of land instead of the 99 hectares for which the developers received authorization from the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water in 2001. Furthermore, Save Pirin claims that environmental impact assessment agreements have been breached.

The authors of the report argue that around 1,000 hectares have been modified for construction of ski slopes and associated transport and living infrastructure. Intense excavation and massive deforestation have led to the washing away of soil layers and the emergence of huge crevices. Natural habitat has been fragmented, and species like the brown bear have been driven from their usual locations.

Asked whether they had looked into environmentalists' claims of illegalities when choosing Bansko as a location for the world cup, International Ski Federation (FIS) representative Riika Rakic told IPS that "the FIS helped the Bulgarian Ski Association and the local organizers at the resort engage an environmental advisor to assess the situation and develop long-term strategies in this area."

Suspicions of past illegalities did not affect the choice of location because "FIS relies on its members to ensure that they respect and comply with all national regulations and legislations in all their activities."

The development has been controversial for some time. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was earlier an investor in Bansko; it owned a share in the Bulgarian First Investment Bank, the institution which coordinated all investments in Bansko. But after complaints from environmentalists and from UNESCO, EBRD sold its share in the First Investment Bank in December 2006.

The Bulgarian Ski Association, the FIS partner in charge of the Bansko event, is run by Tseko Minev, who is also the main shareholder in the Bulgarian First Investment Bank.

Minev, who was in 2007 the third richest man in Bulgaria, has repeatedly expressed support for development of another ski resort in the Vitosha National Park, close to capital Sofia. Bulgaria hopes to organize the Winter Olympics in the next decade, and Vitosha would be needed to complement the facilities in Bansko.

Development of the Vitosha Ski resort has been marred by controversy from the outset. "The Vitosha Ski Company is 90 percent owned by an offshore company, Elora Management Ltd, registered on the British Virgin Islands, and one of the serious problems is that it is completely unclear who is behind the company and what is the source of the money," Katerina Rakovska from the World Wildlife Fund Danube Carpathian Program (WWFDCP) told IPS. "As we all know, lack of transparency is the mother of corruption."

As the skiers in the Friday race were sliding down the slopes of Bansko, the centre of Sofia was filling up with people protesting the decision to fire three directors of national parks (Vitosha, Strandja and Vrachanski Balkan). On Friday morning, Bulgarian media had quoted an opposition claim that the directors would be fired soon because of their resistance to construction in the parks.

Many Bulgarians were excited over the skiing event, in the categories of downhill and Super G (super-giant) in the 2009 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup; the country has not been on the world ski cups schedule since 1984. The organization of the cup was indication that the country is able to offer up to standard tourism and sports facilities.

Tourism has traditionally played a major role in Bulgarian development. Before 1989, the Black Sea coast was a popular destination for summer tourists from countries east of the Berlin Wall, gaining it the nickname 'the Red Riviera'. Post-socialist governments have continued to focus on tourism infrastructure development, both on the coast and in the mountains. With prices still low for Western tourists, Bulgaria was able to attract close to two million foreign visitors in just the first half of 2008 (Bulgaria's own population is seven million).

The cash inflows from the tourism industry are certainly welcome for Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union. Bulgarians themselves enjoy the new opportunities for sports and entertainment, although prices in resorts like Bansko are too high for many.

The Bulgarian Ski Federation is currently training 3,000 Bulgarian children free of charge, in an attempt to popularize the sport and breed future champions. No Bulgarian woman has yet won a World Cup event.

But Bulgarian environmentalists are now worried by the environmental cost of these plans. Far from trying to contain the damage, they fear developers in Bansko will continue to expand their reach inside the National Parks.

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Postby mandm » Wed Mar 04, 2009 11:21 am

There is nothing like a bunch of 2nd home owning environmentalists complaing about construction and job creation.

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Postby leedarkwood » Wed Mar 04, 2009 12:22 pm

Not everyone on here as a second home! :D

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Postby brianj42 » Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:48 am

I love this quote from the Matrix:

I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, You're a plague.

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