The Blue Flag Programme for beaches, marinas, and tourism boats is run by the international, non-government, non-profit organisation “the Foundation for Environmental Education”. The programme started in 1985 in France. In the current times the Blue Flag has become a truly global Programme, with an ever-increasing number of countries participating in it. This programme promotes sustainable development in freshwater and marine areas. The main areas of development are water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety. FEE and the National Operator in the country, reserve the right to refuse or withdraw the Blue Flag accreditation from any beach.
The beach must comply to the basic criteria to be awarded the Blue Flag accreditation. There are on whole 33 criteria which must be taken as guidelines and followed:
- Information about the Blue Flag Programme must be displayed.
- Environmental education activities must be offered and promoted to beach users.
- Information about bathing water quality must be displayed.
- Information relating to local eco-systems, environmental elements and cultural sites must be displayed.
- A map of the beach indicating different facilities must be displayed.
- A code of conduct that reflects appropriate laws and/or regulations governing the use of the beach and surrounding areas must be displayed.
- The beach must fully comply with water quality sampling and frequency requirements.
- The beach must fully comply with the standards and requirements from water quality analysis.
- Industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges must not affect the beach area.
- The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for the microbiological parameter Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci.
- The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for physical parameters.
- The local authority/beach operator should establish a beach management committee.
- The local authority/beach operator must comply with all lawsand/or regulations affecting the location and operation of the beach.
- Sensitive areas must be managed.
- The beach must be clean.
- Algal vegetation or natural debris must be left on the beach.
- Waste disposal bins/containers must be available at the beach in adequate numbers and they must be regularly maintained.
- Facilities for the separation of recyclable waste materials must be available at the beach.
- An adequate number of toilet or restroom facilities must be provided.
- The toilet or restroom facility must be kept clean.
- The toilet or restroom facilities must have controlled sewage disposal.
- There must be no unauthorised camping or driving and no dumping on the beach.
- Access to the beach by dogs and other domestic animals must be strictly controlled.
- All buildings and beach equipment must be properly maintained.
- Marine and freshwater sensitive habitats in the vicinity of the beach must be monitored.
- A sustainable means of transportation should be promoted in the beach area.
- Appropriate public safety control measures must be implemented.
- First aid equipment must be available on the beach.
- Emergency plans to cope with pollution risks must be in place.
- There must management of different users and uses of the beach so as to prevent conflicts and accidents.
- There must be safety measures in place to protect users of the beach and free access must be granted to the public.
- A supply of drinking water should be available at the beach.
- At least one Blue Flag beach in each municipality must have access and facilities provided for the physically disabled.
As of Oct 11th 2020 , 8 beaches in India were approved the Blue Flag. It is a moment of pride as Shivrajpur beach in Dwaraka, Golden sand beach in Diu, Kasarkod beach in Karnataka, Kappad beach in Kozhikode district, Rushikonda beach in Andhra Pradesh, Padubidri beach in Karnataka, Golden beach in Odisha, and Radhanagar beach in Andaman and Nicobar Islands were accredited with the Blue Flag.
It is advantageous to the country in many ways like it’ll become a tourist attraction spot which will help in economic growth of the city/state, the rules being maintained at these beaches can set an example and create awareness among the authorities of other beaches who do not have the Blue Flag, sharing of tradition and culture is built among other people of different states and countries, it creates huge market opportunities for regional goods, the funds collected can further be used to improve the beaches and surrounding areas.
This also comes with many disadvantages like the two faces of a coin. Some of them are increased waste generation (mostly plastic waste), may affect the nearby marine life, it can be a center to illegal activities and actions and many more. According to the survey conducted, over the past years there has not been proper environmental management on the beaches that were awarded Blue Flag many years ago. The blue flag classification system for beach coastal systems tries to justify environmental quality, even when these areas have long lost their geomorphological and ecological features. A research paper was published from Spain and the project aims to test if the Blue Flag management system really ensures an improvement of environmental and natural features of beaches, or if they are just a mechanism for improving the services and benefits to users. The article says that these kind of awards should not be sold as eco-lables of services offered to the bathers in artificial and urban beaches. The results obtained in the project work on the beaches analyzed, indicates that the Blue Flag award does not characterize an area for its natural conditions, the rewards only indicate that an area includes a massive number of services for their users.