Tourism development in the Nature Park Stara planina, Serbia

Serbian government modified national laws to allow for ski tourism development in the Stara planina nature park

The idea of tourist resorts in the mountain Stara planina Mountain date from the 1980s. In 1990 a Public Utility Company was created to facilitate the project. In 1997, the mountain Stara planina was constituted as a Nature park. In 2002, the Serbian government proclaimed the project of tourist resorts one of the 50 most important development projects, and started the construction of ski tracks and lifts at the locality Babin zub in 2006, without planning documents. In September 2007 the Serbian Government brought a decree on establishing the program for development mountain tourism in Stara Planina (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, No. 85/2007 ) and in such way violated six laws and regulations of the Republic of Serbia and various international conventions signed by Serbia. In response to the project, in the same year, more than 50 NGOs from Serbia and Montenegro fighting for conservation and sustainable development formed the Association for the Preservation and Sustainable Development of Stara Planina. The Association's main arguments against the project was the fact that Stara Planina, with less than 2000m of altitude, does not have enough snow to support winter tourism, while production of artificial snow would lead to a further exploitation of scarce water resources, and raise costs of the project making it economically unsustainable. Besides water depletion, the project would cause deforestation, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss. The Association organized activities such as public debates, a web page with chronological information on the case, petitions, media campaigns, press conferences, scientific camps and expeditions, and law-suits to stop the construction of the ski resort. The Association called on the Constitutional Court to assess the legality of the Regulation on the Implementation Program of mountain tourism in Stara Planina. They also sent letters to Boris Tadic, back than president of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica- prime minister, Bozidar Delic- deputy prime minister and the minister of environmental protection Sasa Dragin, requesting compliance with the law and the stopping of further work on deforestation and ski lift construction at the locality Babin zub until approval of a new spatial plan and environmental impacts assessment study. President Boris Tadic found himself incompetent to respond to the Association's letter. Later on the association organized a meeting with the newly elected minister of environmental protection Oliver Dulic. The case got attention in the European Commission as its representatives contacted the Association looking for information on the ski center in Stara Planina. The public company "Srbijašume", in charge of protection areas in Serbian, and among others of Stara Planina, also opposed the construction of the ski resort, commenting on the detrimental effect on the forest of ammonia used in artificial snow production. Even though officially in charge of Stara Planina, "Srbijašume" expressed the inability to protect the mountain on its own without the support from the federal level. In 2008, the project included construction of access roads, water supply system and wastewater treatment plant, electric supply network expansion, as well as rerouting the water of Toplodolska River into accumulation "Zavoj”. The citizens of Temska village near Pirot opposed the rerouting of the river claiming it would leave them without water, while the minister of environment Dragin promised that he personally would not allow it. In the same year, Lidija Amidžić, the director of the Institute of Nature Conservation of Serbia, which openly protested against the ski resort constructions, was replaced. The Law of Nature Protection (Sl. Glasnik RS. Br 88/2010) and Protection Zones Law was modified to allow building in the second and third zones of the protected area. In 2011, the Building Inspection authority Nis ordered a demolition of the already constructed hotel and its supporting facilities. The state has responded by changing The Law on Planning and Construction (Official Gazette. Nr. 31/2012) to enable legalizing the state-financed buildings even if constructed in the protected areas illegally. In 2012, the building inspection issued another decision to remove the gondolas and cable cars that were built without required documentation. However, none of the built touristic infrastructure was removed from Stara Planina and it was put into operation. In 2013, the project was once again acknowledged as of great national interest and it has been fully developed. 
Basic Data
NameTourism development in the Nature Park Stara planina, Serbia
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Tourism Recreation
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Specific CommoditiesTourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
The ski-resort would have 40 lifts and 30 ski slopes (total length of more then 100km), and capacity of 18,000 beds and 30,000 skiers per day.
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Project Area (in hectares)11,000
Level of Investment (in USD)670,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2006
End Date2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesEcosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd. from Canada - In charge of management over ski-resort
JP Skijalista Srbije (Republic of Serbia) - Investor, state company
Meliá Hotels International, S.A. from Spain - Spanish company investing in hotels
Sigma capital management - Investing in hotels
JP “Babin zub” - Investing in hotels
HG hoteli - Investing in hotels
JP "Srbijašume" - Public company in charge of protection of the Nature park Stara Planina
Falkensteiner from Austria - In 2012 the group "Falkensteiner" signed 15-years contract with public company "Stara Planina" on the management of the hotel "Stara Planina"
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Republic of Serbia; Ministry of Finance of Republic of Serbia; Ministry of Energy, Development and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia; Institute of Nature Conservation of Serbia
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAssociation for conservation and sustainable development of Stara planina ( including: Mountaineering Association of Serbia (; Nature Society "Natura Balkanika"; Alpinist Club "Srebrna Glava"; Society of farmers "Stara planina"; Society for Conservation of Nature "Stara planina"; Biology Student Science and Research Society "Josif Pancic"; Society of Young Researchers of Institute of Geography "Branislav Bukurov"; Biological Society "Dr Sava Petrovic”; Ecological and Research Society "Mladen Karaman"; Ecological Movement of Yugoslavia – National Unity; Local Education and Ecological Challenge “Stari Begej-Carska Bara”; Ecological Movement of Novi Sad; Society of friends of nature; League for Ornithological Action of Serbia; Bird Protection and Study Society of Vojvodina; Center for Developing Ecological Awareness - "The Well"; Eco-Base "JUG"; Civil society for protection of animals, life environment and rare endangered sorts of herbs "Beloglavi sup"; Homestead Asociation of "Valjevo"; Center for eco-ethnological research "Bostava"; Ecological association "Baštara"; Young Researchers of Belgrade; Biological Research Society "Josif Pančić"; Volunteers' Centre of Vojvodina; European Geographic Asociation - entity Novi Sad; Center for Civil Society Development "Protecta"; Society for Protection of Nature "Okanj"; Society for Biodiversity Conservation "Mustela"; Gorans Movement of Sremska Mitrovica; Society for Study and Protection of Fishes "Umbra"; Ecological Society of Local Community "Gornja Grabovica"; Ecomovement "Odzaci"; Ecological association, "Avalon"; "Jugo Cycling Company"; Ecological Club "Zeleni ključ"; Yugoslav Association for Water Law; Climbing Club "Adrenalin"; Sanitary Ecology Society; Environmental Ambassadors; Ecological association “Vanessa”, Svetozar Miletic; Green Network of Vojvodina; "Anastazija"; Society for Chinese traditional fighting skills "Hua Kang"; Center for promotion of creativity "Inspiration"; Society for nature lovers, medicine plants and fitotherapy "Mellisa"; Botanical garden for mountain plants of Montenegro; Civil society "Eko-kamp"; Ecological society "Waiting for Wind"; Camping Association of Serbia; Balkan Youth Union; Association „HabiProt“ Belgrade; Association „Zaštitimo Zvezdarsku šumu“ Belgrade; Biological research society „Sergej D. Matvejev“ Belgrade; Bird Study and Protection Society of Serbia Novi Sad.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Threats to use arms
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
On line petition:; Student scientific camps
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Desertification/Drought, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
New legislation
Development of AlternativesThe civil association demanded the environmental law enforcement and stopping of the project as they found it environmentally and economically unsustainable. Since 2012, the project opponents have been quiet.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.In 2010, the Law of Nature Protection (Sl. Glasnik RS. Br 88/2010) and the Protection Zones Law was modified to allow building in the second and third zones of protected area. In 2012, The Law on Planning and Construction (Official Gazette. Nr. 31/2012) was changed to enable legalizing the state financed buildings even if constructed in the protected areas. The constructed infrastructure was put in operation. In 2013, the project was once again acknowledged as being in the national interest, and it has been fully developed in the years that followed.
Sources and Materials

Zakon o zastiti prirode (Sl. Glasnik RS, br 36/2009)

Zakon o izmenama i dopunama zakona o zastiti prirode (Sl. Glasnik RS, br 88/2010)

Uredba o rezimima zastite (Sl. Glasnik RS, br 31/2012)

Zakon o planiranju i izgradnji (Sl. Glasnik RS, br 31/2012)

Resenje o davanju dozvole za izvodjenje radova i aktivnosti, odnosno projekata na zasticenom podrucju iz oblasti turizma
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Saopštenje Asocijacije za očuvanje i održivi razvoj Stare planine
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Španci investiraju u Staru planinu
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Slalom po džepu
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Januar bez snega na Staroj planini
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Strahuju da će ostati bez vode
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Na Babinom zubu prva gondola u Srbiji
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STARA PLANINA: Kraj skijaške sezone, hotelijeri zadovoljni
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Stara planina: Više posla i pored manjka snega!
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Opako ubijanje prirode
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Studenti promovišu lepote i običaje Stare planine
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Republička građevinska inspekcija naložila rušenje nelegalno sazidanih žičara na Staroj planini!
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Nema vode i struje u hotelu
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Produžen rok za Staru planinu
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Hronologija destrukcije Stare planine
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Interview ex-director of Serbian Institute of Nature Protection
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Media Links

Video: Media Conference 2
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Video: Media Conference 3
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Video: Media Conference 4
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Project description with maps
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Video: Media Conference 1
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Document: Destruction Chronology (Serbian)
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Album: Destruction of Nature Park Stara planina
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Photos: Destruction at Babin zub
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Video: Protest
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Otvoren hotel na Staroj planini (FOTO)
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Jabucko ravniste oktobar 2010
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Other Documents

National Park Stara Planina Constructions at Stara Planina
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National Park Stara Planina under construction Construction of ski lifts at Stara Planina
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Stara Planina ski resort One of the main arguments of people opposing construction of ski infrastructure at Stara Planina was the lack of snow
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, [email protected]
Last update11/04/2016