Save Kresna Gorge
Local people and NGOs propose alternatives for Struma Highway outside the Kresna Gorge in Bulgaria
Since 1997 the Save Kresna Coalition has been campaigning to save the Kresna Gorge, an 18-kilometer stretch of the Struma River with more animal species than almost anywhere in Europe. All sections of the Struma Highway, north and south of the gorge, are built or are under construction and the campaign aims the Kresna section to be built outside the gorge, thus preserving the Struma river, the […]
Since 1997 the Save Kresna Coalition has been campaigning to save the Kresna Gorge, an 18-kilometer stretch of the Struma River with more animal species than almost anywhere in Europe. All sections of the Struma Highway, north and south of the gorge, are built or are under construction and the campaign aims the Kresna section to be built outside the gorge, thus preserving the Struma river, the cliffs, forests and agriculture lands. The proposed alternatives would leave the existing road only for local people and tourists and solve road security problems. Many interesting projects are also developed by NGOs in the area: environmental education, organic farming, Large Carnivore Conservation Centre, vultures reintroduction.
The longest environmental campaign in Bulgarian history carries out activities for raising awareness on all levels – from local community to the government, searching for the support of the European Commission, European Parliament and international organizations. The Save Kresna Coalition also develops alternative route designs, carries-on scientific studies and creates sustainable development plans for Kresna and Simitli municipalities, as well as proposes new protected areas. Volunteer help for all these activities is needed in Bulgaria and internationally.
In 2007 local people, road authorities, NGOs, representatives of the European Commission and relevant ministries agreed on a specific route for the Highway outside of the Kresna Gorge. This agreement was the result of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approved by the Minister of Environment and Waters. The agreed route envisaged the construction of tunnels to avoid direct passing through the Gorge. Since then Bulgarian authorities have been constantly postponing the design and construction of the tunnels.
In 2014-2015 Bulgarian authorities, under the pressure of construction companies, declared the tunnels unfeasible and put forward a new proposal for the highway through the gorge, violating several EU Directives. In 2020, though, the government withdrew its application for funding from the EU for the section.
In 2021 for the first time, a joint report was produced by NGOs and the government to the Bern Convention for conservation of European wildlife. Since then NGOs and local people are once again trying to reach a consensus with the Bulgarian authorities and the European Commission. Respecting the environmental laws has no alternative and the Struma Highway should pass outside the Kresna Gorge.
The Kresna Gorge is the best place for whitewater rafting in Bulgaria and a prime area for bird-watching and butterfly-watching. It is a Natura 2000 site of European importance and a proposed protected area. In the nearby village of Vlahi autochthonous breeds of sheep, goats, horses and dogs are raised. In the village there is a Large Carnivore Conservation Centre and an environmental education school.