Burgas has been unbelievable during the recent years and many things have been happening there. All the time. Things we would have thought impossible five years ago. May be this is the reason why when the Mayor announced all of a sudden in mid January 2013 that an oceanarium, a dolphinarium and even a tropical forest will be built in Burgas, no one found this all that strange or impossible.However, oceanariums around the world can be counted on the fingers of both hands because they are complex, expensive and highly technological facilities where large sea animals (mammals or sharks) are kept. In Europe, there are oceanariums in Lisbon and Istanbul only, and, around the world, in the USA, Korea, Japan, Dubai, Taiwan, and, soon, in Vladivostok in the Asian part of Russia.
Let us take as an example one of the most remarkable and perfectly constructed oceanariums - the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan, on 10,000 m². There water is abstracted at 350 m from the coast and from a depth of 20 m round the clock. The pumps operate with an hourly flow-rate of 3,000 cubic meters, the water is treated by 102 filtering pumps with an hourly flow-rate of 3 million litres. Should the pumps stop, all species will die within 2 days, but there is a spare power generator and hundreds of scientists working day and night in order to overcome all issues that may arise.There are only bombastic titles concerning this project in Burgas, and some promises for the future. The concessionaire will yet have to prepare a detailed technical design. At present, there is no environmental assessment, no assessment of the impact on nature. Also, there are no concerns about how this complex facility will be maintained, although the status of the dolphinarium in Varna and its management show what the reality is like. What is more, the new trends about such attractions deny keeping of marine mammals in encosures and recommend the use of external 'basins', or fenced areas of the ocean itself.
At the same time, the people in Burgas and the responsible institutions have no concerns that the construction will take place near the Atanasovsko lake – one of the biggest riches of the town and, also, an internationally important wetland, and that not only the construction and operation, but also any release of water may prove fatal to the fragile ecosystem in that protected site. It is unclear how high salinity water will be maintained for the needs of the ocean species which will live here, since the Black sea is among the least saline seas in the world. What chemicals will be used every day to maintain the basins and where will thousands of tons of polluted water be discharged to everyday? It is unclear how the water will be treated - by pump, by filter or by chemicals, and, also, will fresh water will be used with the addition of salt. What will happen to the northern beach, which is most favoured and visited by the people of Burgas, if waste water or chemically treated water is released somewhere in the sea? Obvioiusly, these matters are not so important at present, and, perhaps, they never will be, because it is hardly likely that anyone is considering building an oceanarium in Burgas.
What makes us think so?
We requested and were granted access to information by the Burgas municipality and as it turns out, not only an oceanarium and a dolphinarium are provided for in the early economic analysis, but also an aquapark, a spa, a scientific and informative centre with a commercial section and, of course, a hotel, a restaurant and a discotheque. The oceanarium will be built in accordance with the initial plans (those which are presently available) by the eight year of the concession. An enormous amount of 20 million have been envisaged for its construction, and, for comparison, 11 million has been allocated for the 100 room hotel. Perhaps it is not difficult to see that this money will not be sufficient for such a complex and very risky facility (the aquarium in Copenhagen alone needed more than 100 million USD), with special isolated pools, glass which is highly resistant to the pressure of thousands of tons of water, drains, an enormous amount of electricity, maintenance of constant temperature, interesting species with specific requirements, and highly diverse food and, mainly, competent specialists - ichthyologists, hydrologists and, also, marine biologists and oceanologists, which are not available in Bulgaria. The forecasted entry prices are also interesting - 20 levs for the aqua park, 16 on average for the dolphinarium, 25 levs per dolphin treatment session, and 20 levs for the oceanarium.
Still, everything might have been wonderful, if anything wrong was not showing through, such as the use the 'Lake' park territory as an aquapark and hotel being 'dolled up' as highly significant for the public - a dolphinarium and an oceanarium ensuring year-round tourism, developing and improving the northern part of the beach strip of the town and of the Sea-side park (and what is wrong with them now?), creating possibilities for sports and water entertainment, sea and ocean awareness events, promotion of the natural features of the Atanasovsko lake and of the environmental work and initiatives related to the lake, with the possibility opened up for 'green' education.
Laudable, but such a large-scale project initiated without any consideration of the interests of the public and without clarity about what and when will happen on this valuable territory of land? How was it decided in such a short time that an oceanarium is the exact tourist attraction needed in Burgas? How did it happen so that within a week all the municipal councillors voted unanimously at a meeting to approve the idea? And is this the only suitable location in Burgas for such an investment?But why am I saying all this? I'm saying it to inform the citizens, who have been asking for several months now about what is going on, and why will there be no oceanarium in Burgas, will it be the ecologists' fault for its not being built or will the investor will run out of money, or, perhaps, some other convenient excuse will be found. But this is not the bad thing - slowly, our Sea-side park is being built up by means of convenient projects, all intended for the good of the citizens. We do not want the largest park in our town to be replaced by an aquapark, a hotel and a mall. And everything is supposedly transparent here, always done through broad public hearings, while this time things happened somewhat quickly and now we have a winner, with signatures affixed and with the construction works about to happen any day now. Congratulations!