Right now some Canary Islands municipalities are anxiously waiting the news, to be announced on June 5th, that their beaches have been approved for the International Blue Flag award, symbol that a beach takes its safety and environmental responsibilities seriously.
If you’ve been to Tenerife before you may have noticed a blue flag waving proudly on some of the beaches, especially on the sun-drenched southern beaches in Adeje and Arona. You may have wondered what it is, since it clearly is neither a warning nor a flag of the local municipality. You will be happy to hear that it’s there partly for your very own guidance as to the quality of the beach. It’s kind of like the Michelin stars for beaches (also marinas and boat trips in fact).
The idea began in France back in 1985, and was then an award for beaches which provided safer bathing conditions i.e. there was no sewage in the water, a not uncommon occurrence in the so-called “good, old days!” Two years later the idea spread to the European Union, but it has grown in scope over the years, and in 2001 the idea went global, so you can now check out beaches from Morocco to Brazil to Jamaica. It’s grown from a listing of just 244 beaches back in 1987 to 3,650 beaches today, and as it has expanded the conditions have become stricter.
As a visitor, the things which probably concern you most are control of water quality, safety and security, but the aim of the award goes beyond immediate concerns to protect the environment for the years ahead too. There are strict rules about the frequency of water testing and where it should be done i.e. in the parts of the beach most used. It should be free of sewage and industrial waste.
Each beach awarded the blue flag must display on at least one information board things like evidence of the water quality (which must be graded as “excellent”), where you can find first aid, lifeguards and life-saving equipment, telephones, recycling facilities and disabled access. So when you visit a blue flag beach you can relax, knowing these facilities are at hand. If a beach fails to comply with the rules laid down by NGO Foundation for Environmental Education, which administers the awards, then there is no hesitation in withdrawing the flag.
The award lasts for a maximum of one year, and then the beach is reassessed, hence the anxious waiting now, days before the announcement of this year’s awards. However, it is possible for a beach to have a flag for just a part of the year. Some, like Granadilla de Abona, whose beaches at El Médano and La Tejita both had flags in 2011, choose to have lifeguards, for instance, only in the busiest months, especially in these days of tightened spending. When the busy season ends, they must remove the flag.
So long as you see a flag you can rest assured that your health and safety is prioritized by the local authority, and that the beach was and is sustainably developed, meaning it will still be there, in good condition, for your kids and grandkids to enjoy too.
Category : beaches
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