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News: Greece comes second for clean beaches

The Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN), Greece's National Coordinator of the international “Blue Flag” Programme, and Alpha Bank, Programme Sponsor for Greece, recently announced this year’s Blue Flags awarded to Greek beaches and marinas.  With a total of 404 Greek beaches each winning a Blue Flag this year, compared to 383 in 2005, Greece ranks second among the 40 countries rated, a result that represents a major improvement from last year.

Around the globe, 2549 beaches in total were awarded a Blue Flag: this means that in 2006 one out of every six Blue Flags will fly in Greece.  Greece does, however, lag significantly behind in the number of marinas to win the same distinction, with only 5 marinas out of a global total of 638 being awarded a Blue Flag.
 
The “Blue Flag” Programme

The “Blue Flag“ is an international quality symbol, arguably the best-known eco-label in the world, and has been awarded since 1987 to beaches and marinas that meet environmental, management and safety guidelines.  For a beach to win a Blue Flag, it must comply with 29 strict criteria, including cleanliness, organisation and services, provision of information, the safety of swimmers and visitors, and the protection of the environment of the beach and of the coastal area.  Hence, despite their clear bathing waters, many Greek beaches have failed to win a Blue Flag this year due to falling down in other areas.  For marinas, there are 22 corresponding criteria. 

Even if a beach or a marina wins the Blue Flag once, it may keep it only for the season for which it has been awarded, and has to prove again that it is worthy of the Blue Flag for the following year. Throughout the summer period, HNPS and FEE inspectors check the compliance with the Programme criteria and identify problems and omissions which may lead to the Blue Flag being temporarily lowered or even removed altogether. The evaluations of inspectors are taken seriously into consideration by the National Jury in its evaluation of beaches and marinas applying for a Blue Flag.
 
Big foreign travel operators put special emphasis on the existence of “Blue Flag” when selecting the destinations which they will propose to their clients, and insist not only on good service levels but also on the protection of the environment.  Thus, Greece's high number of "Blue Flag" beaches bodes well for its tourism industry.

Programme Criteria for beaches

Cleanliness of sea and coast

  • Clear bathing waters, confirmed by laboratory analyses every two weeks during the swimming season
  • No discharge of industrial effluents and urban sewage without proper treatment
  • Adequate waste bins, which must be emptied regularly
  • Periodic cleaning of the beach from litter, cigarette butts etc.

Beach organisation and safety of visitors

  • Constant provision to the public of information on bathing water quality
  • Plans for addressing a potential pollution accident, with immediate notification of the public
  • Ban on driving vehicles and mopeds on the beach
  • Ban on free camping
  • Adequate sanitary facilities with controlled sewerage systems
  • Trained lifesavers on duty or direct access to emergency phone lifesaving gear and first aid supplies
  • Provisions for people with disabilities

Protection of nature and environmental awareness

  • Printed information and instructions on the rules of conduct on the beach and in coastal region areas with sensitive natural environment, flora and fauna
  • Organisation of events that promote actively the natural environment of the coast and the need for its protection

The 40 participating countries in the Blue Flag programme this year came predominantly from Europe but Turkey, Morocco, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada also took part.  The country to pip Greece to the post with 480 Blue Flag beaches and 82 Blue Flag marinas was Spain.  For the complete 2006 Blue Flag listings, please visit www.blueflag.org/blueflag

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