It was a proud moment for Indians as for the first time eight beaches of India were awarded with Blue Flag by a prestigious jury, including members of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Blue Flag beaches are considered the cleanest beaches in the world. It means now travellers won’t have to go to another country to experience azure blue beaches. The news had indeed brought cheer to Indian travellers, who are holed up at home for the past six months and itching to travel. Now, they have got a new destination to explore in India.
Spread across five states and two Union Territories, these beaches are: Dwarka (Gujarat), Ghoghla (Diu), Kasarkod and Padubidri (Karnataka), Kappad (Kerala), Rushikonda (Andhra Pradesh), Golden Beach (Odisha) and Radhanagar (Andaman and Nicobar Islands). Following the award, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted that the certification is a global recognition of India’s conservation and sustainable development efforts. “It is an outstanding feat considering that no Blue Flag nation has ever been awarded for 8 beaches in a single attempt.”
What does the Blue Flag award mean for beaches?
Operated by Foundation for Environmental Education, Denmark, Blue Flag is a coveted voluntary award given to those beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators, who meet and maintain certain environmental criteria. These beaches have to live up to stringent environmental, educational, safety and accessibility standards. The programme was started in France in 1985 to promote sustainable development in freshwater and marine in four areas ~ water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety. So far, around 47 countries have already got the Blue Flag certification for 4,573 beaches. Spain has the highest number of Blue Flag tagged sites.
How important is the Blue flag award for Indian beaches?
Even though India is a country full of beaches, so far it was out of the Blue Flag list. Therefore, it is nothing short of a proud moment and it certainly will boost the tourism sector. Another unique part is that India is the only country that has received the Blue Flag certification in two years’ time. While countries like Japan, South Korea and UAE, are the only other Asian nations that were conferred with the award but in a time frame of 5-6 years. The journey to get the tag started in 2018, when India launched its own eco-label, BEAMS, under its Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) project. Under this pilot programme one beach in each coastal state and Union Territory will be developed. The objective of the BEAMS programme is to promote beach tourism and recreation in absolute harmony with nature; and is unique in that sense. The first set of eight beaches are up for the certification for the ensuing tourist season 2020. In the next five years, India is eyeing to add 50 more beaches to the Blue flag list.