The protected area Kamchiiski Piasatsi (Kamchiyas Sands) is the biggest Black Sea sand beach in Bulgaria. This area preserves a unique combination of dunes and dense forests. The significance of Kamchiiski Piasatsi has been acknowledged both through its status of a protected area as well as its inclusion, together with Kamchiya Reserve, in the European Environmental Network Natura 2000 and the proposal for it to be declared a site under the protection of the Ramsar Convention for conservation of wetlands with international importance.
A governmental decision from 2005 excluded 150 hectares from the total area of coastal beaches in Bulgaria, some of this territory being part of the Protected Area Kamchiiski Piasatsi. With the same decision the Council of Ministers transformed the ownership of these lands from an exclusively state property to a private state property, in violation of the Protected Areas Law and the Constitution, which promulgate the public character of state ownership in the coastal beach strip and in the protected territories. In this manner, the 150 hectares in question were transformed from coastal sands into agricultural land (Category X pasture) and forest cultures.
In 2006, in violation of the Protected Areas Law, 40.7 hectares of the above mentioned pastures (including the lands that were within the limits of Protected Area Kamchiiski Piasatsi) were substituted by the Minister of agriculture and forestry with 31 properties of agricultural land in the municipalities of Vidin (Northwestern Bulgaria) with a total area of 65 hectares. The 40 hectares on the front line of the beach were evaluated at the price of 55 673 BGL, while the fields in Vidin region at the price of 415 340 BGL. The new owner of the protected territory - Rees International Ltd., condescended not to receive compensation payment for the swap.
After Rees International Ltd. acquired ownership of the land it disputed in front of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) the order for the establishment of Protected Area Kamchiiski Piasatsi with the argument that boundaries of the site have not been clearly delineated. Defendants in this court case were the Ministry of the Environment and Waters and the Council of Ministers.
In 2006 the SAC decided that the order for establishment of a Protected Area Kamchiiski Piasatsi was void on the grounds of purely formal arguments, i.e., that in 1980 this order was signed by the Chairman of the then Committee for Protection of the Environment (CPE) and not by the Minister of Forests and Forest Resources. The arguments put forth by the court endanger the network of protected natural territories in Bulgaria because in the period 1978-1998 the orders for the establishment of more than 250 more protected natural territories were issued following the same procedure. Thus, any investor may decide to dispute in front of the court the respective order for establishment of a protected natural territory he/she has an investment interest there.
The Ministry of Environment and Waters appealed the decision in front of a five-member Supreme Administrative Court and won the case, reestablishing the protected area status of Kamchiiski Piasatsi. However the company owner of the lands does not give up its project to build a sea side resort in the area.
Kamchiya is already the site of the sprawling Russian children’s holiday complex. This complex is outside the nature conservation area but is seeking to expand. In 2008, Bulgaria’s then-government, the socialist-led coalition headed by Sergei Stanishev, gave the go-ahead to a Kamchiya Park development to expand the development without the required environmental impact assessment, which led to an infringement procedure being launched by the European Commission.
In 2010 and 2011 the Ministry of Environment and Waters has issued orders of stopping all investment projects in Kamchiiski Piasatsi on the grounds that these are dangerous for the Natura 2000 site. This ban on building order has a validity of one year only. According the Bulgarian law the Ministry cannot issue more than two of these orders, meaning when the currently acting ban from 2011 expires, the investor will renew the pressure on the state.
The only sustainable solution to the conflict is that the Ministry of Environment issues an order for a protected area according to the Birds Directive with clear and well-argumented prohibitions on certain activities on the protected site, such a construction. Such prohibitions already exist for the adjacent protected area Kamchiya Mountain.
In 2012, the ban had lapsed but it is not clear what will happen with the expansion of the development.