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A DUNE IS NOT A DUNE © Anthony Georgieff

As Nikolina Angelkova, the minister of tourism, recently explained, tourism to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is expected to be at a record low in 2019. The reasons are probably many and varied, and surely they have nothing to do with overconstruction along the 378-kilometre stretch of coast that the Bulgarian tourist and construction industry has managed to turn into a concrete ghetto.

The sort of attitude Bulgarians have to their tiny stretch of seaside can be illustrated with an incident at the beginning of 2019, when excavator operators levelled a huge sand dune near Kavatsite, south of Sozopol. The men were detained, and explained they had been paid a fee of 1,000 leva by a "third party" to finish off what nature had created thousands of years ago. Nothing can be done about this, explained Angelkova, as the construction permit had been issued prior to 2008, when the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast Act was adopted.

Subsequently, the Bulgarian government decided to strengthen the protection of whatever remains of the Black Sea coast and proposed severe penalties to people putting up... parasols, spreading towels, and – God forbid! – parking cars in protected sand dune areas.

The new measures envisage fines of 1,000-3,000 leva for placing a towel on a dune. A repeated offence would carry a fine of 3,000-7,000 leva.

Last year, Valeri Simeonov of the extreme nationalist National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria who was then deputy prime minister, made headlines as he made surprise appearances at discos at the Black Sea coast, turning off their amplifiers to cut down the noise.

Angelkova said advance bookings for the tourist season were down by 30-40 percent. She added she could not name a specific reason for the downturn.

Excavator operators, however, can heave a sigh of relief. Construction permits issued to private owners will remain valid. Towels and parasols are a lot more detrimental to dunes that were created prior to 2008. 

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