English · Français
Forum Synergie

Linking sustainable practices throughout Europe

[EXP] Raising public awareness on the Bourgas Wetlands, in Bulgary

Rural topic(s): Sustainable development in wetlands, Civic engagement, local governance and dialogue, Conservation and management of natural resources

Type: Success story

Date of writing: September 2, 2010

Author(s) of this page: Radostina Tzenova

Organization(s): BBF (Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation)


Bourgas Wetlands are located on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast near the town of Bourgas. Radostina Tzenova was Public Relation of Bourgas Wetlands Project, which was part of the Bulgarian Swiss Biodiversity Conservation Programme. Except of important conservation activities and preparation of the Management Plans for these lakes, one of the main tasks of the project was to raise the public awareness of the local people for the importance and the value of the wetlands. Partnerships with other organisations and local authorities played an important role in the achievement of the projects goals.


Regional Background

The lakes around the city of Bourgas (Pomoriisko, Atanasovsko, Bourgas (Vaya) and Mandra with Poda) form the biggest and most valuable wetland complex in Bulgaria. Their total area amounts to 9500 ha, 3330 ha of which are declared protected. Besides being rich in natural resources - fish, reed, game, salt, medicinal mud, lye, etc.- they expose an exceptional biodiversity. Forty fish species, 15 amphibians and reptiles, 35 mammal species, hundreds of invertebrate species and many plants are recorded there, but the most impressive inhabitants of the lakes are the birds, which can be seen here nesting, wintering or migrating.

The huge ecological and conservation value of the Bourgas wetlands is due to their favourable bio-geographic location. One of the major migratory « high-ways » in Europe, called the Via Pontica, passes over and the Bourgas wetlands are an essential resting place for the birds on their way from the Danube delta to the Mediterranean coasts.

At the same time, Bourgas is one of the biggest Bulgarian cities, with huge oil -chemical industry and thousands of tourists coming every year. The preservation of nature in this context is therefore a special challenge.


The Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (BBF’s main partner during the third phase was the Department for Biodiversity of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters (RIEW) - Bourgas. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), managing the conservation center « Poda », has been an indispensable actor in the project. The BSPB volunteers participated in many of the activities on the lakes.

The Ecology Department of Bourgas Municipality, managing the protected areas « Vaya » and « Chengene skele », worked in close collaboration with the project on all matters concerning the biodiversity of the region. The Green Balkans Federation worked for the protection of Pomoriisko Lake, which is managed by Pomorie Municipality - an active participant in the Regional Forum. « Green Balkans » - Bourgas studied the distribution of rare plant and animal species from the Bulgarian Red Data Book and issued a lot of information materials. With the « Black Sea Saltworks » Ltd, BBF carried out activities at Atanasovsko Lake (doing a joint project for restoring the dikes at the lake, building an observation hide and cleaning the canal). Another important partner , related to the management of the fish resources and the conservation of the protected area Vaya, was « Freshwater Fishery » Ltd.


The strategic goal was to establishing a sustainable system for protection, control and management of the wetland complex, the protected territories and their biodiversity

The specific goals were:

  • Applying priority activities from the management plans of Atanasovsko Lake and Poda.

  • Elaboration of management plans for Vaya and Pomoriisko Lake and extending the network of Ramsar sites with three new territories (Vaya, Mandra with Poda and Pomoriisko Lake).

  • Increasing the capacity of the existing institutions by means of functional development of the Regional Forum « Bourgas Lakes ».

  • Institutional support of RIEW - Bourgas and Bourgas Municipality.

  • Generating additional means for sustainable management of the wetland complex, the protected territories and their biodiversity.

  • Promotion of the wetlands on national and international level.

  • Finalizing the management plan of Ropotamo (in case it is not finished by the end of June 2001)

Achieved results

  • Pomoriisko Lake was declared a protected area in January 2001.

  • To improve the cooperation and the dialogue between the institutions and organizations interested in the lakes, together with our partners, we established the Regional Forum « The Bourgas Wetlands - protection and reasonable use ». Besides, thanks to our successful cooperation with RIEW - Bourgas, three biodiversity specialists were appointed. Their office in the RIEW building was equipped with our support. The Conservation Center « Poda » won recognition as a place for surveys, conservation education, workshops, etc. The number of its visitors in summer 2001 till reached the record of 2800 visitors monthly.

  • After an absence of 10 years, a colony of Glossy Ibises nested again in Poda PA. The Spoonbills, forming the biggest colony in the country, together with the Herons, Cormorants and the pair of Mute Swans nesting for the first time, were a subject of special attention from the Center’s visitors. And thanks to the regular monitoring of the lakes - hydro-biological, ichtyological, ornithological, etc. - we are able to prove the region’s European or global conservation value.

  • A big share of our efforts aiming at promoting the lakes’ value proved successful - the periodical newsletter « The Bourgas Lakes » and information materials are demanded by the local public, schools, media and interested institutions. The exhibitions, children competitions and celebrations we are organizing made the lakes more popular to the citizens of Bourgas and the conservationists from the country and abroad. The tourist facilities (a boat at Vaya lake and an attraction train at the salt-works) allow the visitors to enjoy nature, which is inaccessible in any other way, and create conditions for sustainability of the project’s activities in the future. Every year we organize summer conservation brigades with volunteers for repairing the artificial islands in Atanasovsko Lake, for building nesting platforms in Vaya and Pomoriisko lakes and, last but not least, for monitoring the autumn migration. Terns, avocets, gulls and plovers quickly colonize the newly made islands, while the pelicans favour the platforms built in Vaya Lake.

  • The Management Plans of Atanasovsko Lake Reserve and Poda Protected Area were updated in compliance with the new legislation. A public hearing of the Atanasovsko Lake Management Plan was carried out. It is expected to be finally approved by the end of the year with an order of the Minister of Environment and Waters, placed in the State Gazette.

Future challenges and perspectives

The good news is that a new big Project started a few months ago (Life + project “Life for the Bourgas lakes”) and BBF is a partner in it. This will guarantee continuation of the good work in the region and future improvement of the lakes conditions.


Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (BBF)



Scale of intervention : Regional

Keywords: Information / Education for sustainable development, improvement of biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, protection of the environment, protected area, lake, ecotourism, wetlands, water management, territorial dialogue

Places: Bulgaria

Actors: environmentalist, association, municipality

Methods: raising awareness, monitoring, voluntary work, programme/project management, intermediation and facilitation, forum