x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

12 more UAE beaches awarded Blue Flag for safety and cleanliness

With the new additions, the UAE now has a total of 24 Blue Flag beaches, mostly in the capital and in Dubai, as well as one in Fujairah.

The UAE now has 24 Blue Flag beaches, mostly in the capital and in Dubai, with one in Fujairah. Silvia Razgova / The National
The UAE now has 24 Blue Flag beaches, mostly in the capital and in Dubai, with one in Fujairah. Silvia Razgova / The National

DUBAI // A dozen more beaches and marinas have won the internationally recognised Blue Flag accolade for safety and cleanliness.

They bring the UAE’s total to 24, mostly in the capital and Dubai, with one in Fujairah. They join a list of more than 4,000 of the world’s best beaches in 46 countries.

To achieve a Blue Flag, beaches are ranked on safety, services, water quality and environmental management.

Proving seawater is free of harmful pollutants is one of the most important aspects of the programme, said Moaz Al Sawaf of the Emirates Wildlife Society – World Wide Fund for Nature, which is the UAE coordinator for the programme with the Foundation for Environmental Education.

“A beach’s water has to be tested regularly and this has to be done through a third party that is certified internationally,” he said.

Eight of the new Blue Flag beaches and marinas are in Abu Dhabi. They are Al Bateen Marina; The Club; Lagoon and Phase 2 on the Corniche; Saadiyat Island; the Hilton; Le Meridien Mina Seyahi; and the Desert Islands Resort and Spa on Sir Bani Yas island.

Three Dubai hotel beaches – Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Le Royal Meridien Hotel and the Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort – and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel marina were also awarded a Blue Flag.

As part of the registration process, water tests must be carried out every two weeks for 10 months and beaches that already have the Blue Flag must test water every month.

Issues such as the presence of disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli and chemical pollutants are closely monitored. If these are found then the public must be alerted and the beach closed until the problem is rectified.

“Blue Flag is a very strict programme and it is very transparent,” said Mr Al Sawaf.

There has only been one case of a Blue Flag beach in the UAE being closed since the programme was launched here in 2011. Abu Dhabi Corniche beach, the first to win the certification, was shut for two days that year over concerns about traces of oil pollution.

Marine water quality in the UAE is good in general, although development of the coastline has reduced water flow and created conditions for the growth of algae and the accumulation of pollutants.

“There are some areas where there are some issues with water quality,” Mr Al Sawaf said.

Besides the cleanliness of the sea water, beaches are also evaluated on measures taken to protect sensitive habitats. On Saadiyat beach, for example, visitors are allowed only on special elevated walkways to protect turtle nests.

The scheme also looks at the availability of lifeguards, life-saving equipment and facilities such as changing rooms and other criteria.

Mr Al Sawaf is working to bring more than 20 beaches run by hotels and municipalities into the programme next year, including Jumeirah Beach Park beach and four public beaches in Sharjah. He urged municipalities to join the scheme because it can improve safety and reduce problems such as littering.