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The right thing in the wrong place

Bulgarian windfarm projects threaten half a million migratory birds…

More than half a million European birds will be at risk as they soar along Bulgaria’s Northern Black Sea Coast on migration after Dolores Arsenova, the Bulgarian Minister of Environment and Water, gave the go-ahead for three wind-farm developments at Cape Kaliakra, a BirdLife-designated Important Bird Area. [Kaliakra is recognised as a conservation site of global importance under BirdLife International’s Important Bird Area (IBA) programme. It is the only site in Bulgaria with Eastern Dobrudja steppe, a key habitat for 131 bird species qualifying as threatened or vulnerable under the Bulgarian Biodiversity Law (State gazette 77/2002) and protected by the European Union’s Birds Directive (79/409/EEC).]

The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB)/Birdlife Bulgaria and other conservation NGOs had lodged an appeal against approval of the projects, but Arsenova overruled it, giving the go-ahead for at least 80 wind turbines, each 120 m tall, to be constructed at Cape Kaliakra. Whilst 80 wind turbines have been given the go-ahead, but there are proposals for 107 to be built at Kaliakra on land designated within the IBA, including 80 turbines in the core area."BSPB believes the windfarm site selected is entirely inappropriate because it poses a great risk to soaring migrating birds," said Dr Nikolai Petkov, Director of Conservation at BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria. In line with this BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria has signed an agreement with the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Energy for identifying sites where windfarm development is less harmless to birds and has signed a contract with the MoEW to locate such sites on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.

"More than 500,000 soaring birds—pelicans, cranes, buzzards eagles, and storks—will be at risk when they face a whirling wall of death. This is Europe’s second largest soaring bird migration route and these birds come from all over northern Europe; Bulgaria has an international obligation to protect them." The entire European breeding population of White Pelicans migrates along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Other species at risk include White Storks, Common Crane, Red-footed Falcon, European Honey-buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Booted Eagle. The area is also of international importance for autumn concentrations of Corncrakes."BSPB is not opposed to wind energy developments, which we believe can help in preventing climate change and global warming, but we are concerned that wind turbines should be built in places where they won’t have a negative impact on nature. What worries us about the Kaliakra proposal is the geography of the location, when birds flying east to west along the coastline will pass through the path of the turbines." The proposals of most concern are those by Universum Energy Ltd, Vertical-Petkov & sie Lts and INOS-1. The latter is funded by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. Research by BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria in autumn 2004 found that 29,000 storks, pelicans and cranes and 2,500 raptors flew directly over the proposed windfarm plots. Of these, 40% flew at an altitude of 150 m or less, putting them at risk of collision with turbine blades, whereas only 9% passed the area flying higher than 500 m.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the development failed to consider alternative project areas or note the site’s Important Bird Area (IBA) status."The EIA experts also seem to have ignored the recommendations of the Bonn Convention resolution on windfarms and Bern Convention reports," said Petkov. "Bulgaria is an Accession Country, and this case would be in clear breach of the European Union’s Habitat Directive, which requires precautionary measures to be taken to avoid damage to key conservation sites."

Official statements by BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria and other conservation NGOs—the Bulgarian Association of Alternative Tourism and the National Natural History Museum — opposing the development, plus additional statements against the project from all Institutes of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, have been ignored by the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW).

BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria now plans to launch an appeal in the regional court against the MoEW decision, and is considering lodging formal complaints with European institutions to put international pressure on the Bulgarian Government to comply with European Union conservation legislation, and on the project’s investors.

4th July 2014