Za Zemiata / Friends of the Earth Bulgaria

Cleaning up Bulgaria’s national parks

Zhelyazko Mechkov has been involved in Za Zemiata / Friends of the Earth Bulgaria campaigns to clean up Bulgaria’s mountains for the last 6 years. He was one of the brains behind the first clean-up in Pirin National Park back in 1999, designed to clean up rubbish from difficult-to-reach mountainous terrains in protected areas.

Every summer, around 80 Za Zemiata volunteers spend a week in one of the country’s national parks, moving heavy loads of garbage away from forests, peaks, lakes and meadows. They work in the highest parts of the mountains where no vehicles can go and carry most of the waste away on their backs.

For decades there were no plans or special regulations on waste management in Bulgaria’s three mountainous national parks. Waste dumped in nature is problematic in several respects: it degrades the landscape, emits hazardous and sometimes toxic substances when decaying, pollutes soil, groundwater, running water and lakes and can cause forest fires – broken glass on exposed slopes is a particular hazard.

Zhelyazko has been working with Za Zemiata to strengthen and popularise the clean-up projects and to attract more volunteers and supporters to the campaign. He has been a great inspiration for many of the newcomers to Za Zemiata with his spirit of sharing, readiness to help, deep respect for nature and knowledge of the pristine Bulgarian mountains.
In the past 16 years these projects have removed 84 tonnes of waste from the Bulgarian mountains. They have created and educated a community that cares for and respects nature, many of whom join in the annual clean-ups. The message of “Bring your garbage down!” has reached thousands of people. It not only refers to taking away your rubbish away from the mountains but also to reducing consumption and waste generation in general.

“My job is related to the mountains, I spend a lot of time in the mountains, and in a way this is my home – and I like to keep my home clean. I want to share this space with wildlife with the most respect that I can. Cleaning shows respect for nature and every other living organism around here, and, importantly, when I clean the mountain, the mountain cleans me, cleans us all.”ZHELYAZKO MECHKOV

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