Saving Karadere Beach
Following the demise of the communist regime, Bulgaria’s coastline has been ravaged by relentless urbanisation. Imminent high-end large-scale tourism projects threaten the nature and culture of Karadere, one of the few unspoiled by development areas with a wild beach on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Miroslav Damyanov, former EUKN intern, completed research on the case of Karadere to unravel the current strategies to urbanise a last remaining bit of unspoiled coastline on the Bulgarian seaside and reveal the spatial injustices the mass tourism industry brings in its wake while demonstrating the collective power of citizens contesting this troubled development.
Spatial fix and spatial justice struggles on the Bulgarian seaside
Mobilising notions from state-of-the-art Anglophone spatial theories (i.e., spatial fix, Thirdspace, spatial justice), this research seeks engagement with debates and critical theories about geographies of capital accumulation and contentious politics. In doing so, the project exposes the predatory nature of the offshore company Madara Europe and Sofia-based company Maxi I’s investment projects in Karadere in the socio-political, environmental, economic and historic context of Bulgaria and the EU. The spatial fix in Karadere entails the mass tourism industry’s insatiable drive to resolve its internal crisis tendencies through geographical expansion and (re)organisation. This spatial transformation brings inevitable injustice in its wake not only because the investors seize control over a valuable nature resource part of EU’s eco network Natura 2000, but also because Bulgarian institutors favour such developments or struggle to regulate them.
Taking space seriously
The spatial fix in Karadere is embedded in socialist escapes (communists’ utopian resort dream), consolidation of land (investment funds and private landowners), power relations, offshore companies, architect’s prestige, priority class certificate, Russian-speakers holiday home buyers , and controversial and error-prone Master Plan of the Municipality of Byala. The forthcoming large-scale urbanisation of Karadere unleashed a wave of social disapproval throughout Bulgaria. A coalition of citizens’ initiative “Let’s save Karadere” and NGOs mobilised in a progressive network of solidarity in attempts to preserve the wild beach. Using spatial justice strategies assertively, they seek a more democratic control over the production and uses of surpluses that are concentrated in space. Spatial justice in Karadere is not merely a right to consume and exploit space, but a right to imagine and produce space as a site for heterogeneous encounters. Therefore, it is the right to become a collective user of the liminal beach space of Karadere rather than a high-end consumer of homogenized space.
The research project reflects on the geographies of urban development and civic movements beyond the city centers to include sites such as a beach that are nonetheless central to the political identity of people, global economic forces and urban imaginaries of investors, statesmen and communities. The spatialised notion of justice rooted in the liminal qualities of Karadere beach, calls on support from the Bulgarian and European institutions. The notion of spatial justice advocates an engaged participation of citizens in the political decision-making involving the distribution and the usage of valuable resources. Therefore, this notion should also be inevitable part of the EU’s Urban Agenda. Several practical recommendations encompass the following:
- Transparency and civic engagement
- Regulatory urban planning and management of Natura 2000
- Spatial justice as a political objective
Byala, district of Varna, Bulgaria
Miroslav Damyanov, MSc
Department of Geography, Planning and Environment
Institute for Management Research
Radboud University, the Netherlands