The chaotic urban development of the Bulgarian Black Sea resorts has been exposed as the Regional Development Ministry is trying to figure out how many tourists reside in each one of them over the summer.
"The Bulgarian state will not pour a single buck into the construction of water purification facilities in the resorts until it gets precise data about the residents of each municipality from at least three sources," Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Rosen Plevneliev declared Wednesday after the weekly meeting of the Cabinet.
He commented on the problem with inadequate water supply and sewerage systems along Bulgaria's Black Sea coast caused by the overdevelopment of certain resorts in the recent years coupled with the shortage of investments in the respective urban infrastructure.
Plevneliev stressed the discrepancies from various sources on the information about the number of residents of the Bulgarian sea resorts – including both permanent residents and tourists that swell the local population over the summer – as his ministry is supposed to provide guidelines for investments in water infrastructure projects based on the population numbers.
"There are severe discrepancies at present. For example, the Municipality of Sozopol has submitted information that it has 80 000 hotel beds. Data from the Economy Ministry, however, says that they are only 2 000," the minister said adding that the high figure was probably presented by the local authorities in order to justify a more massive investment in the future water facilities.
At the same time, the low figure submitted to the Economy Ministry is intended to keep low the tourist tax that is owed to the state for every hotel bed.
Plevneliev did add, however, that according to estimates of the local water supply companies based on the amount of consumed water, there were 40 000 people in Sozopol at the height of the summer tourist season. The Sozopol Municipality itself has a permanent population of 15 000 people.
Another example of a huge discrepancy in the tourist accommodation numbers is the Municipality of the top resort of Nessebar, which also includes the largest Bulgarian Black Sea resort Sunny Beach and several smaller resorts. Various data places the summer population of the Nessebar Municipality (including the hundreds of thousands of tourists) somewhere between 350 000 and 650 000 people at its peak. The municipality itself has a permanent population of 29 000 people.
According to dubious recent data of the Bulgarian National Statistical Institute, in April-June 2011, in all of Bulgaria, there were a total of 3 226 accommodation places of more than 10 beds, with a combined total of 112 600 rooms, and 246 400 beds - a number that appears to be smaller than the number of tourists that can be accommodated in the Nessebar Municipality alone.
To add more to the utter statistical confusion, Bulgarian tourist organizations have estimated that more than 6 million foreign tourists would have visited the country by the end of the summer season, the overwhelming majority of them staying in Black Sea resorts.
"Whatever water facility we are building we need exact data to get money from the state or from the EU funds, and we will be uncompromising about it. The municipalities should be honest and nice enough to say how many residents they have during the summer and how many – during the winter. If the municipalities want water stations – they have to give correct data. Let's see who is paying taxes and who isn't," the Regional Development Minister stated, adding that he would also get data from the Economy Ministry and the National Statistical Institute.
In his words, in addition to the regions around Sozopol, Nessebar, and Sunny Beach, the region of the northern resort of Golden Sands is also a tough one to figure out the precise residence numbers.
Plevneliev vowed to get better sewerage infrastructure by May 2012 so as to prevent the problems stemming from direct pouring of waste water onto the coastline beaches.
He said that 6 water purification stations were launched in 2010, and that 14 more were on the way.
About 10 days ago Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov declared that the water and sewerage problem was the "Achilles heel" of the Bulgarian Black Sea tourism, and that it needed to be resolved in 1-2 years, with legal measures, if necessary.