Educate. Connect. Inspire

Educate. Connect. Inspire

Feb 23, 2012


Bulgaria is located in Southeast Europe, in the northeast part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a European, Balkan, Black Sea and Danube country. This geographic location places it on the crossroad between Europe, Asia and Africa. Bulgaria shares its borders with Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea. The capital city is Sofia.

The natural landscape of Bulgaria is diverse, consisting of lowlands, plains, foothills and plateaus, river valleys and mountains of varying elevations. Three national parks have been established in the country: Pirin National Park (a UNESCO natural heritage site), Rila National Park, and the Central Balkans National Park. There are also 11 nature reserves.

Bulgarians have developed their culture and enriched it over the millennia, and they preserve it and continue to develop it to the present day. Rose picking is just one of the many Bulgarian traditions that are kept and cherished by locals. The Rose is the symbol of Bulgaria.

Environmental challenges in Bulgaria

Like other former Soviet countries, Bulgaria tried to strongly develop branches such as heavy industry and intensive agriculture but did not mitigate the adjoining environmental consequences. Although in the post-communist era environmental awareness has improved, the lack of administrative strength led to the continuity of many dangerous practices.
  • Urban areas are particularly affected by air pollution mostly due to energy production from coal-based power plants, outdated factories, metallurgy works and automobile traffic, especially due to a rapid increase in motor vehicles using leaded fuel.
  • Pesticide use in the agriculture, as well as the inability to filter effluents into rivers, leading to concentrations of untreated sewage, heavy metals and detergents have resulted in extensive water pollution. Bulgaria's rivers and the Black Sea are seriously affected by industrial and chemical pollutants. However, nearly 100% of the population has access to safe drinking water.
  • Soil pollution is also present due to contamination from industrial by-products and the heavy metals that are produced by the metallurgical plants.
  • Severe deforestation, mostly caused by illegal logging and forest damage from air pollution and resulting acid rain is another significant problem. Almost 25% of Bulgaria's forests have been damaged by airborne pollutants.
  • In addition, Bulgaria remains the only EU member which does not recycle municipal waste, although an electronic waste recycling plant was put in operation in June 2010. The situation has improved in recent years, and several government-funded programs have been initiated in order to reduce pollution levels.
  • The 4 reactors of Bulgaria’s only nuclear plant, the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, were declared unsafe in the early 1990s, but the first reactor closure occurred only in 2003.
  • Climate change is likely to affect Bulgaria in a number of ways. Over the last years there have been unprecedented floods, while average summer temperatures have risen considerably. There is evidence of a trend towards desertification and pressure on water resources, especially in southern regions of the country, along with signs of gradual northward migration of various plant and animal species. Bulgarian scientists anticipate the spread of desertification, with the climate in Bulgaria becoming sub-tropical by the period from 2050 to 2080. A number of traditionally cultivated crops are expected to become unviable and expectations include the growth and spread of pest and disease species hitherto unseen in Bulgaria and resilient to the new climatic conditions.

Citizens’ community involvement

Bulgarians show low levels of participation in the organisational structures of civil society and low levels of interpersonal trust, which affects the functioning of civil society as a whole. CSOs are seen to act primarily for rather than with citizens. Thus citizens prefer new forms of participation and representation of their personal interests. They tend to get ‘encapsulated’ within their family circle and their closest family members and limit any social contact outside that circle. This is coupled with low trust in representative institutions and fellow citizens. Low levels of engagement and trust in social processes indicate a sustained trend.

The new faces of civil society (activist groups, such as students and environmentalists) represent a significant percentage of the whole. Citizens refer to environmentalists, pensioners and students as the authentic representatives of civil society. Environmentalists managed to identify the appropriate tools to attract attention and invoke civic engagement. Their initiatives are specific and well-targeted at overdevelopment irregularities, necessary changes or conservation of resources. In contrast to other CSO subtypes, environmental organisations have a strong public profile and well developed professional capacities.

However, environmental activities are still of insignificant public interest. On a small scale, events are initiated among youth groups, books and materials are issued by NGOs about recycling and water resources, etc. Only recently the need to develop environmental tourism and the potential for income generation through the sustainable use of natural resources is being promoted in Bulgaria. But most Bulgarians still favour economic interests over environmental ones. For example, there is predominant public support for the development of nuclear power.
Government environmental policies

According to OECD there are about 25 environmental taxes in Bulgaria, among which 8 regard fuel and vehicles, 2 regard air pollution and 1 soil pollution, 4 regard water, 4 regard waste, while the remaining six refer to use of resources, nature protection and noise. There are also some environmentally motivated subsidies with the purpose of waste prevention and resource conservation, supporting the implementation of priority goals of national environmental policy (National Environmental Protection Fund) and financing the environmental protection projects (National Trust EcoFund).

Other sector-specific strategies and action plans:
  • National Programme for Waste Management for 2009-2013 period
  • National Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation (adopted in 2009, updated in 2010)
  • National strategy for developing and managing the water sector by 2015
  • National strategic plan for the stage by stage reduction of biodegradable waste for disposal. (2010 - 2020)
  • Project for National Strategy for waste management of construction and demolition for the period 2020 (under preparation)
  • Energy Strategy on Bulgaria until 2020
  • National Long Term Programme for Encouraging the Use of Biomass 2008-2020
  • National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency 2008-2010
  • National Action Plan for Renewable Energy (2010)
  • National Development Plan for organic farming in Bulgaria for 2007-2013
  • National Programme for Fisheries and Aquaculture 2009-2013
  • Programme for priorities in the Development of Bulgarian Agriculture for 2009-2013
  • National Programme for the Support of Sustainable Development of Fisheries 2008-2013
  • National Action Programme for the Sustainable Management of Lands and Combating of Desertification 2007-2013
  • National Strategy for Sustainable Development of the Forest Sector In Bulgaria 2006-2015

At 3 % of GDP, revenues from environmental taxes are the fifth highest in the EU (2.6 %). This is due to high revenue from energy taxation, which — at 2.7 % of GDP — is the second highest in the EU (1.9 %). This again reflects the strong reliance of the country on revenues from indirect taxes and the high share of excise duties in total taxation, almost 50 % of which comes only from excise duties on fuel. Consequently, the country ranks also second in revenues from energy taxes levied on transport fuel – 2.6 % of GDP in 2009, while transport taxes excluding fuel are of somewhat lesser importance amounting to only 0.3 % of GDP.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Regarding charity, business makes about 70% of all donations, indicating a positive development of corporate social responsibility. According to a survey conducted among large international companies in Bulgaria, most of them are active in a diverse number of civic and charity programmes at the local level. Yet, there is a prevailing opinion that most companies do not make any significant effort to mitigate the impact of their operations on the environment.

In another survey, the answers regarding the efforts of large Bulgarian corporations directed towards overcoming the social and ecological consequences of their work were: insignificant – 31%, limited– 40%, moderate–18% and considerable–3%, indicating a rather modest scope of corporate social responsibility in Bulgaria.


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