Swimming on beaches? Watch for blue flag

We all know what it means when we see a red flag on the beach: swimming is dangerous at that time and place and therefore not allowed. But what does it mean when we see a blue flag?

A blue flag is waving at certain beaches in Abu Dhabi and Fujairah and can now also be seen on two beaches in Dubai, Mamzar Beach and Jumeirah Open beach.

It is nothing but a good sign. The Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to more than 3,850 beaches and marinas in 48 countries by the Foundation of Environmental Education.

In order for a beach to qualify, it needs to comply with 32 requirements regarding safety and services, water quality, environmental management and environmental education and information.

"It is not easy to qualify for the Blue Flag. It requires a lot of hard work and compliance on many fronts," said Mohamed Al Noori, Director Corporate Marketing and Relations who presented the project at the 1,000th meeting of the Technical Committee of Dubai Municipality.

Beach safety has been a major concern in all emirates, as every year people drown off the UAE coast. Strong currents are often at play, and swimmers are urged not to swim when the sea is rough. Meanwhile, municipalities are pressured to install safety measures at recreational as well as open beaches.

The blue flag marker guarantees of a set of crucial safety measures. An adequate number of lifeguards and/or lifesaving equipment must be available at the beach, as well as first aid equipment. There must be management of beachgoers and events to prevent conflicts and accident, and supply of drinking water should be available at the beach, states the FEE on its website.

With the flag in the pocket for two main beaches in Dubai, Mohamed sounds optimistic about beach safety in the UAE. "We are working towards including all beaches in the emirate as 'blue flag beaches. But this requires a lot of study and work. Currently other beaches are under review."

The UAE coastline stretches a distance of 700 kilometers and is one of the major tourist attractions in the region. The UAE aims to develop international tourism standards, said Dubai Municipality.

"Being a pioneer in the field of environment and an entrepreneur in terms of sustainability is characteristic of the UAE. The UAE is the first country in the region to apply for the Blue Flag programme.