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Eco-friendly coasts make a mark.

Set up by Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) to protect and develop beaches and marinas around the world, the Blue Flag programme is a widely accredited initiative that is increasingly spreading in the UAE since 2009. Lorraine Bangera reports

Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF (EWS-WWF), the programme's national coordinator, awarded to 12 new beaches and marinas the Blue Flag in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Moaz Sawaf, Blue Flag project manager, said: "With UAE as an example of increasing numbers of beaches and marinas being awarded, we encourage even more beach and marina operators in the country to apply for and work towards the Blue Flag."

Recognised world-wide as a symbol for coastal excellence, the UAE can now boast of a total of 24 Blue Flags across the emirates. To be awarded a Blue Flag, there are 32 criteria for beaches and 24 criteria for marinas to be met covering four major areas including: environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management, safety and services.

Moaz Sawaf, Blue Flag project manager said: "Blue Flags are awarded every season. They are reassessed and reviewed (annually) to ensure standards are adhered to and maintained. The first 12 Blue Flag beaches have consistently met the standards by fulfilling the strict criteria.

One of the major benefits of attaining a Blue Flag accreditation includes attracting tourists. Sawaf said: "International tourists are more likely to be visiting a Blue Flag hotel because they can be confident that the beach is clean and environmentally-friendly."

While residents visiting the coast also benefit by learning more about coastal sustainability. "One of the Blue Flag criteria is for the Blue Flag beach to hold five environmental education activities each year that help in raising the awareness level among the public community," he added.

The UAE is one of the only countries in the region that has an established Blue Flag programme. According to Sawaf, even though there is an interest in GCC countries, so far there have been no Blue Flag National operators in those countries to run and monitor the programme.

The newly awarded sites in Abu Dhabi include:

* Al Bateen Marina

* The Club beach

* Sdiyat Island beach

* Lagoon beach

* Phase 2 beach

* Hilton beach

* Le Meridien

* Desert Islands on Sir Bani Yas

The newly awarded sites in Dubai include:

* Jumeirah Beach Hotel Marina

* Jumeirah Beach Hotel beach

* Le Royal Meridien beach

* Sheraton Dubai Jumeirah

* Beach Resort beach

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Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Nov 21, 2013
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