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Case study sites

Site description

Keywords: Open Bay, Lake

The case study area runs from cape St. George in the north, to cape Galata in the south, while at regional level it stretches from cape Ekrene to cape Cherni nos. The most western part of the bay is a sandy spit – a low-lying area with range of width varying between 2,000 and 2,700m. Two navigable canals running through the sandy spit connect Varna bay to Varna Lake, as the latter is linked also to Lake Beloslav to the west. The length of both lakes and the canals is about 30km. Within this area is located the largest transport and port agglomeration in Bulgaria - Varna-Beloslav-Devnya industrial complex, covering an area of 150km2. Given that more than 50% of the coast is directly affected by wave induced erosion, Varna coast can be defined as erosive.

The impact of north-eastern and eastern winds is determining for the study area. Following the wind pattern waves propagate most frequently from east and northeast but important events can be expected from southeast as well. The eastern waves are predominant within the entire shelf zone, ranging between 30 and 40% probability of occurrence. The most frequent significant wave height is smaller than 1.5m. On rare occasions, it is larger than 4m, while waves around 7m have a return period of 100 years. The storm surge level with corresponding return period is about 85cm. Tidal fluctuations are very small and considered irrelevant. Largest waves are observed during the storm season (October-March), which can reach 7m significant height. The contemporaneous sea-level rise trend (excluding subsidence) was estimated to be 1.2mm per year.

Why was this area selected?

Varna case study site represents a unique combination of low-laying beaches and artificial island, occupied primarily with touristic and industrial activities, and residential, touristic and park areas located on a prone to land-sliding cliff. The ecosystems and their natural buffer role in the storm impact mitigation were significantly compromised due to unclear managerial decisions and illegal construction. Besides, poorly designed and maintained protection structures, which had failed to sustain the natural beach resources in a balanced manner, additionally contributes to the risk vulnerability enhancement.

Land, coastal and marine uses

Keywords: Residential use, Port & Marinas, Tourism, Industry, Nature

Residential/urban area can be considered as the main land use. Approximately 360.000 inhabitants live in Varna but during the summer season due to tourism this number can reach 800.000. The area within the sandy spit, including the two navigable canals and the artificial island between them, is occupied by Varna-East port complex (total 110ha) and a number of industrial and warehouse/storage facilities (335ha). North-western shore of Varna Lake accommodates industrial and transport facilities like power plant, dredging and timber terminals. On the western shore of Beloslav Lake, Varna-West port ferry terminals and a complex of chemical plants are located.

The coastal area comprises predominantly of beaches separated by cliff and/or landslide stretches. Most of the beaches are located within the borders of the city and those outside are part of sea and spa resorts. The coast also accommodates a number of marinas used either for leisure activities or fishery purposes.

Natural areas can either be classified as forest, agriculture or urban, as the latter are represented by villa zones and urban parks located within or outside the borders of Varna city. Natura 2000 network sites and some protected territories are located along the shores of Varna and Beloslav Lakes, for instance “Mochurishteto”, “Kazashko” and “Yatata” where others are located in between some of the resorts. Furthermore, a small part of Galata Natura 2000 protected site is located to the west of cape Galata and occupies Asparukhovo urban park and the adjacent Asparukhovo beach.


Keywords: Wave impact, Marine flood, Erosion, Land-sliding, Wind, Flash flood

Lacking large rivers, flood risk in the area originates predominantly from extreme weather events with marine origin. The most hazardous event is a combination of high storm surge and intense wave action on the coast. Wave exposure of the coastal stretches within the site varies from exposed in the northern part, to extremely exposed in the southern one, while the wave exposure of the bay itself vary from sheltered to exposed.

About 30% of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is subject to land-sliding as a result of excessive erosion, poor ground water management, and uncontrolled construction on land-slide prone terrains. This indicates inadequacy of coastal management and disaster prevention practices. Another important problem is the sediment shortage due to inefficient coastal protection in conditions of predominant sediment transport direction.

Socio-Economic losses & Environmental Impacts

Keywords: Beach loss, Infrastructure damage, Property damage, Impact on tourism, Loss of habitat

As the coastal area of the Case Study site is exposed to the intense storm and wave action, the socio-economic losses are mainly connected with the severe damage of infrastructure and property and the loss of vital space for the touristic activities. Additionally, environmental impact, as loss of important habitats, can occur at the protected areas located across the shoreline of the study site.

Partner in charge

IO-BAS Institute of Oceanology

Members of the project’s end-users and stakeholders board

Varna Regional Administration

Photo Gallery

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 Varna 1

Fig.1: Flooding of Varna Central beach (north), undermining of Sea Baths foundation, damages to the buildings and beach erosion (Source:

Varna 2

Fig.2: Damages on jetty 102B after the storm in February 2012 at Varna study site (Source: Iliyan Kotsev).