Croatia will more than likely have to request the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to convene the World Heritage Committee to conduct the process of Reactive Monitoring to determine whether conditions exist to remove the Plitvice Lakes from the World Heritage List to the World Heritage in Danger List which would be a national disaster, the nature park's management has reported.
Namely, in one of its documents, UNESCO voices concern that the Plitvice Lakes has significantly increased its tourism capacities and that the park's management is not included in the process of issuing building permits and as such since 2014 the development of tourism capacities has boomed posing a potential threat to protected value.
UNESCO has requested the state to prepare a report on the latest situation in protecting the Plitvice Lakes and to present it at the next UNESCO meeting in February 2017. The report should contain an analysis of construction, physical planning, conditions for the issuance of building permits, a plan restricting tourism exploitation and a strategic evaluation of environment impact.
Environment and Nature Protection Minister Slaven Dobrovic underscored that the monitoring would focus on the excessive construction and expansion of apartments that have been enabled by the 2014 physical plan which was adopted in parliament even though it was given a negative assessment by the State Nature Protection Institute (DZZP).
Another problem is the excessive number of visitors to the lakes, "because if the pace of development and number of tourists continues, as has been in the past ten years, we could soon be faced with a permanently irreparable situation," Dobrovic said announcing "very resolute steps."
Manager of the Plitvice Lakes National Park Andjelko Novosel said that the physical plan for areas with special features was obviously not in national public interest.
"We are concerned with the way building permits are issued that allow the reconstruction of facilities of current size of 20 to 30 square metres to be extended to 200 or 300 squares meters," Novosel said.
Despite numerous objections to the 2014 physical plan it was given the green light and adopted in parliament and this public institution was exempt from participating in the decision-making to issue building permits, he added.
Novosel announced an "action plan to manage the number of visitors," aimed at attracting visitors to surrounding features and other nature reserves in the area in an attempt to relieve the pressure around the lakes themselves, he told Hina.
He recalled that the most reputable world authorities had assessed UNESCO's recommendations including Stephen F. McCool and Paul F.J. Eagles, and that now the action plan would be prepared according to their recommendations.
It is also important that the ministries and the state's water management authority - Hrvatske Vode - solve the problem of water supply and sewage. Based on international conventions it is unacceptable that water from one of the largest lakes in the park is used for water supply and the only legal solution would be for utility companies to deal with water management and not the park's management as is the case now.
"UNESCO had requested long ago that water not be exploited from Lake Kozjak and we are currently in the phase of transferring that system to the utility company," Novosel explained.
"It would truly be a shame for Plitvice to once again be put on the list of endangered heritage as was the case between 1991 and 1998 during the war and now that we are a member of the European Union," he said.
The Plitvice Lakes was declared a national park in 1949. It is situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The protected area extends over 296.85 square kilometres (73,350 acres). About 90% of this area is part of Lika-Senj County, while the remaining 10% is part of Karlovac County.
The park is best known for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. The lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow.