ABU DHABI // Blue Flag, an international programme from Denmark that evaluates beaches and marinas to see if they can be designated eco-friendly, could be on its way to the Emirates. Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS), the non-governmental group that is the UAE partner to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), has been approved as the Blue Flag co-ordinator in the country. The next step is to form a national committee that would review and approve applications before they are forwarded to the Blue Flag programme administrators.
The committee would also monitor how the programme is implemented. Maisoun al Sharif, the Blue Flag co-ordinator for the UAE, said environmental and health authorities, as well as relevant industry bodies and private companies, needed to be part of the process. More than 320 beaches in 37 countries have been awarded Blue Flag certification, by passing four main evaluation criteria, including water quality and environmental management.
Critics of the programme point out its objectives are easy to achieve. An education and information section, for example, requires an indication of the beach's proximity to sensitive areas. To achieve this goal, beach operators need only place an announcement on a local signboard. However, some beaches could still have a problem meeting the programme's criteria. To get a Blue Flag eco-label, no industrial or sewage discharges can affect the beach area, coral reefs nearby must be monitored, and the beaches need to have certain safety measures in place, including lifeguards, beach patrols and first-aid facilities.
They must also provide drinking water. EWS-WWF will be organising a workshop for stakeholders and representatives of the Foundation for Environmental Education, the Danish non-profit organisation behind the scheme. EWS-WWF is also conducting a feasibility study and review of the UAE's beaches, and aims to start a pilot project that would help at least one beach or marina meet the Blue Flag criteria and become a learning site for the rest of the country.