Goa Misses The Bus

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Let us hope the state tries to get into next Blue Flag list

INDIA can claim pride in receiving Blue Flag certification for all its eight beaches that it recommended for the purpose. The Blue Flag certification is given to a beach in any part of the world by the global environment organisation called the Foundation for Environment Education based in Denmark on the basis of  as many as 33 criteria. The criteria cover a wide range of areas to judge the eligibility of the beach for certification. The criteria evaluate the bathing water quality of the beaches, the initiatives and programmes undertaken by the local government for  the management of the beach and coastal environment and for the conservation of the ecosystems, as also the standards of beach safety and the services provided. The Blue Flag certification is accorded by an international jury comprising representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Denmark-based NGO Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The beaches which have been awarded the certification are Shivrajpur in Gujarat, Kasarkod and Padubidri in Karnataka, Kappad in Kerala, Rushikonda in Andhra Pradesh, Golden in Odisha, Ghoghla in Diu and Radhanagar in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The states that have got their beaches certified as Blue Flag have solid reasons to celebrate. Unfortunately Goa, which is famous for beaches, has failed to get any of its beaches certified as Blue Flag. About two years ago, the Miramar beach was designated as a potential candidate for Blue Flag certification. The processes began, with the state agencies promising they would take all the measures to get the Miramar beach qualified for the certification. The other states – Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha – and the union territories Diu and Andaman and Nicobar Islands began their efforts at the same time as Goa was expected to start, in 2018. The Ministry of Environment kept on pressing the states and union territories including Goa to create pilot beaches for Blue Flag certification. However, the state agencies utterly failed to take primary measures and set up the infrastructure for making the Miramar beach eligible.

It is a pity Goa missed the certification. A Blue Flag certification would have not only been a feather in Goa’s cap but also enhanced tourist attraction for the Miramar beach. For at the core of it, the Blue Flag certification is intended to provide a healthy recreational environment for the local residents and tourists. It is integral to eco-tourism and aims to provide tourists and local beachgoers clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities, safe and healthy environment and sustainable development of the area. Blue Flag beaches are considered the cleanest beaches of the world.

If Goa is famous for the beauty of its beaches, it is equally infamous for the ugliness of its beaches. The tourism department has not been able to fulfill, directly or through intermediaries, its responsibility of keeping the beaches clean. The policies and programmes for maintaining clean, hygienic and safe beaches have been marred by maladministration and corruption. The National Green Tribunal has been asking the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority to remove the illegal structures in the coastal zones but with little result. Shacks operate in an atmosphere of political patronage, rather than of strict regulation of environment laws. The police are expected to enforce the laws against drinking on the beaches, but they have not done it very effectively.

One of the primary aims of making beaches go for Blue Flag certification is to promote environment education. The certification expects that the local government would make serious efforts to raise awareness about the protection of the beach environment among local beachgoers as well as tourists. Education is the foundation. Without a strong sense of protection of the beach environment as a part of protecting themselves, the people will always treat the beaches as a commodity–that is, as a consumable product. India is now among 50 countries that have got a few beaches certified as Blue Flag.  The Ministry of Environment is planning to get Blue Flag certification for 100 beaches in the country in the next five years. Let us hope Goa makes serious efforts to get into that list.