As a public organization, Green Balkans has been organizing and taking part in lots of public nature-conservation campaigns.
These campaigns aim at solving various problems related to the shortsighted policy, imperfection of legislation, violations, etc. They are targeting the general public in order to involve the civil society and the institutions in the process of solving particular problems.
For its 20 years of existence, Green Balkans has organized and managed more than 300 public campaigns and actions, fighting against environmentally unfriendly governmental or local municipal decisions, practices, and policies. The results of these campaigns are some of the Organization’s most significant achievements.
Almost all public campaigns implemented by Green Balkans have been organized with the voluntary efforts of the Organization’s members, while the achievements resulted from the broad public support, civil activeness, and strong public pressure on decision making institutions.
- 300 campaigns and actions have been implemented, 80 of which of national significance;
- 160 texts proposed by Green Balkans’ experts have been included in Bulgaria’s new nature conservation legislation;
- the Convention on Biological Diversity has been ratified by the Bulgarian Government;
- 25 environmentally unfriendly political and municipal decisions have been repealed;
- four lawsuits were initiated, two of which have been won;
- more than 350 signals received from citizens about poaching, violations, and corruption within the forest and environment protection sectors, and investigated by Green Balkans’ experts;
- 180 cases of poaching, illegal felling, and hunting, improper privatization of forest companies, swaps, corruption practices, etc. have been referred to the Prosecutor’s Office and the responsible institutions.
Some of the major campaigns organized by Green Balkans:
Campaign against the use of rodenticides
The mass spread of rodenticides in 1988 that caused the death of thousands of raptors and protected species was the reason for the establishment of Green Balkans. This campaign is an example of civil activeness in totalitarian times, being one of the few acts of democratic consciousness in that period. Small group of students and enthusiasts from Plovdiv and Sofia gathered the carcasses of dead birds and organized the first ecological protest, collecting signatures and disseminating information materials. The campaign had wide public and media response. As a result, the Government discontinued the rodenticide-spreading campaign, thus preventing the terrible consequences of the poisonous substances.
National campaign against the construction of Gorna Arda dam cascade
In 1992, in Southern Bulgaria, a huge hydro-cascade was planned to be constructed on one of the big Rhodopean rivers. In 1997, the project came in the foreground again as part of the Government’s Program, threatening the unique biodiversity and landscape within a 100 km section of the Arda River. The campaign involved field studies, interviews with independent experts, public discussions, press conferences, etc. Legal proceedings were brought against the Government for improperly implemented Environmental Impact Assessments. National public discussion was held on May 14th, 1999 in the town of Plovdiv, regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment of the project for construction of Gorna Arda dam cascade.
Despite the efforts made by Green Balkans, the Bulgarian Union for the Protection of the Rodope Mountains, and other NGOs, the Government and the public did not respond to the appeals. The local authorities and population were incited against the NGOs because of the promises for employment opportunities and involvement in the project implementation. Having used all legal means, Green Balkans, with the support of “For the Earth” Environmental Society only, organized protest actions and demonstrations. The actions were held during the official opening of the construction works of the dam cascade in October 1999.
Public campaign against the amendments to the Environment Act
On March 30th, 1995 the Bulgarian Government adopted an amendment to the Environment Act, aimed at changing the EIA procedure. This amendment provided for the postponement of the EIA of certain infrastructure sites till the completion of their construction. This is an extremely dangerous procedure, which invalidates the democratic EIA procedure to a great extent.
Green Balkans took a stand against this amendment in several declarations and press conferences. Unfortunately, there was no response from the Government. Later on, Green Balkans, together with other NGOs, organized a national campaign aimed at repealing this amendment. The campaign involved publishing a brochure, with the possibility for a nation-wide petition, and a poster, as well as a series of publications in the media. More than 100 volunteers were involved with the petition. 10,000 signatures were gathered for less than two months, which were then submitted to the Parliament and the Government as part of the program of a protest procession. At a later stage, with the change of the governments, the new Government made changes in the above-mentioned amendment. Thus, although not entirely, the public campaign was a success.
National campaign against the extension of the waterfowl hunting season
In 1995, the Hunters and Anglers’ Union started making attempts to extend the waterfowl hunting season under the pretext that wild geese populations wintering in Bulgaria destroy the crops and cause huge damages to agriculture. This called for the implementation of a campaign, including active civil protests in front of the building of the Forest Committee in Sofia.
Such campaigns against extensions of the hunting season are still organized when hunters raise such claims.
Campaign against the use of poison baits for wolf control
In 1993, the Forest Committee (the structure responsible for forests at that time) launched a mass campaign for wolf control using strychnine poisoned baits. As a result, in addition to the wolf population, there was a side effect on the raptor populations in Bulgaria, which faced total destruction, and some vulture species became extinct in Bulgaria.
Under the cover of a non-existent radio station, Green Balkans’ members interviewed most of the Forestry Departments in the country, thus proving that the data provided by the authorities on the numbers of and damages caused by the wolf population was extremely exaggerated. Civil protests were carried out in front of the building of the Ministerial Council.
Although the use of strychnine and poisonous baits against wolves is banned today, this campaign continues, targeting cases of illegal use of poisons (the campaign is part of the efforts made for eliminating the limiting factors affecting the reintroduction of vultures).
Campaign for the designation of the Western Rhodope Nature Park
Green Balkans’ proposal for the designation of the Western Rhodope Nature Park aimed at providing institutional protection of the unique biodiversity and landscape of the Western Rhodopes. This was the reason for the implementation of Bulgaria’s biggest ever campaign for designation of a new protected area. The campaign involved meetings with institutions, citizens, and media, as well as dissemination of information materials in more than 100 settlements of 29 municipalities in the Rhodope Mountains. As a result of the campaign, many municipalities declared their support both for the establishment of the park and the activities aimed at achieving sustainable development in the Rhodopes.
Bulgarian rivers in danger!
The campaign is focused on the overexploitation of inert materials from Bulgaria’s river valleys. The active work under this campaign started after the year 2000, when the consequences of the uncontrolled extraction of inert materials from the river beds were brought to light. The direct consequences include: lost riparian habitats, destroyed biodiversity, subsided underground water, and damaged residential buildings and infrastructure. The examinations on signals sent by citizens, the investigations, and the media coverage resulted in the prevention of serious damages to nature.
“Save Bulgaria’s Forest” Campaign
this campaign aimed at solving the gravest ecological problem in Bulgaria – destruction of the Bulgarian forest.
This overall campaign involved campaigns for protection of floodplain forests (1996-2000), campaigns for provision of support for the new forest legislation (1996-1997), and a national campaign against poaching (1996-2003).
The Voluntary Forest Protection Network was established as part of this campaign. This Network involves activists throughout the country, sending signals and assisting the investigation of infringements.
Our work in this area of activity continues with Green Balkans’ program for protection of the Bulgarian forest, as well as for prevention of poaching and corruption in the forest system. So far, more than 300 investigations have been carried out after citizens’ signals of poaching and corruption in the forest system. Tens of thousand decares of forests have been saved from felling.
Being one of the most renowned and reputable organizations in the country, Green Balkans in involved in various nation-wide campaigns together with other non-government organizations:
Preserve Bulgaria’s Nature Campaign
carried out by a Coalition of the same name involving more than 30 national NGOs, organizations and civic groups. This is a campaign against the uncontrolled violations in protected areas and the NATURA 2000 ecological network taking place in recent years.
The campaign is addressing the wide public, national and international institutions, being focused on legislative and management decisions to prevent the destruction of the Bulgarian natural heritage. Tens of actions in various parts of the country, multiple meetings with national and international institution representatives, tens of press-conferences, discussions and presentations have taken place within the Campaign. Tens of information materials, films and videos have been prepared. The Campaign has received a huge public response and has led to direct results for the preservation of Bulgarian nature.
The united actions of the Coalition and the citizens have prevented the erasing of the Strandja Nature Park and the cutting of the NATURA 2000 network, led to legislative changes preventing the erasing of existing protected areas, and averted violations and infringements in many protected areas and NATURA 2000 sites.
For further information go to: www.forthenature.org
Save Pirin Campaign and Coalition
established to oppose to the uncontrolled construction of ski runs taking place in the Pirin National Park. The Park is an area of strict protection regime. The National Park category means that the land within its boundaries is state owned, and its designation aims at preserving this national heritage for the coming generations and providing people with opportunities for tourism and recreation. In 1983 Pirin was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Despite that, construction of new ski runs and facilities started in 2000 in the heart of the Park. The ski zone has been constantly expanded since then, endangering the biodiversity and the landscape of the Pirin Mountains in violation of national and international normative documents and policies. http://www.bluelink.net/savepirin/savepirin.shtml
Save Rila Campaign
The Campaign was initiated by Citizens for Rila Civic Group and aims at preventing the construction of ski runs and resorts within the Rila National Park as well as preventing the illegal construction taking place there.
Cyanide-free Bulgaria Campaign and Coalition
The Coalition unites 18 Bulgarian nature conservation organizations and works for the imposing of a ban on the use of cyanides for the extraction of precious metals in Bulgaria.
Save Irakli Campaign
initiated by a group of citizens, self-organized in defense of one of the last preserved sites along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The citizens from Save Irakli group have been actively involved in almost all actions in protection of Bulgarian nature in the past years, as their activities have been supported by the nature conservation organizations including Green Balkans.
Find further information at: www.daspasimirakli.com.
Campaign against the uncontrolled construction of micro Water Power Plants
the campaign unites the efforts of several NGOs against the uncontrolled construction of hundreds of micro WPP, endangering the alpine rivers of Bulgaria.
Campaign against the uncontrolled construction of wind generators
uniting the efforts of several Bulgarian NGOs. The goal is to discontinue the practice of constructing wind generators along bird migratory routes or close to areas of great significance for rare bird species, such as the Imperial eagle.
GMO-free Bulgaria Campaign and Coalition
initiated by the AGROLINK Society and supported by other NGOs.