On the occasion of the World Environment Day on 5 June, the Bulgarian Minister of Environment Nona Karadjova pointed to the biggest advantage of Bulgaria in this regard – well-preserved nature, its most precious capital.
“In 2011 alone we declared three new protected territories and another two are with an extended area, so they already take up 5.3% of the country’s territory. This implies that the total of 580 thousand ha of land is under protection. Besides, in 2011 we increased the territories that are part of Natura 2000 network by more than 44,600 ha. This network already covers one-third of the country.”
Commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, a survey held by the MBMD agency suggests that the problems of the environment are not among the top concerns of Bulgarians, however everybody seems to care. Amid the economic crisis it seems only natural that people have other concerns – unemployment, low wages etc., Mira Radeva, MBMD director, explains. The environment is a top priority for as little as 1 percent of the polled. However, asked whether they care about it, 84 percent have given affirmative answers. Opinion about the state of the environment in this country varies, with a slight prevalence of those who believe that it is unsatisfactory.
The survey has found a growing sensitivity of Bulgarians to the topic of the environment. Mira Radeva points to a few curious nuances:
“Environmental thinking is perceived as trendy, it is accepted as the thinking of the present-day”, she explains. “And when we ask people who is to blame for the state of the environment, Bulgarians tend to be very self-critical and 46 percent reply that everybody is responsible. This is followed by 32 percent who blame transport, and 19 percent blaming industry. At the same time however a mere 24 percent are ready to take part in public activities linked to improving the environment. This too, is not bad”, the analyst believes, because it implies that every household has at least one member who is active on environmental issues. “It is also curious”, she adds “that while environmental thinking is typical of the young in the main, the older generations are more active in practice where nature-friendly action is concerned.”
The survey also found that there is strong discontent with poor organization and the ineffectiveness of separate waste collection.
“In the focus groups that we held there was clear disenchantment with the fact that separate waste collection bins are not available in a few places, or that waste collected separately is later mixed together in trucks that take garbage away”, Mira Radeva said. “Overall 90 percent of Bulgarians are willing to join separate waste collection however it seems that central and local government have not done their best to make good use of this public readiness.”
The conclusion from the survey is that Bulgarians do have environmental awareness and this should be put to good use by the Executive. By the way, one of the first things that the Ministry of the Environment intends to do is to introduce higher prices of plastic bags in stores from 1 October. The measure comes as a response to the readiness of 88 percent of Bulgarians to replace disposable plastic bags with either classical shopping bags for longer use, or with bio-degenerative ones.
Translated by Daniela Konstantinova