EVEN though the Miramar beach was selected for certification under the Blue Flag programme more than six months ago the state government failed to start working to meet the requirements for the world class tag. The Blue Flag certification is a prestigious qualification established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985 and requires various parameters to be met to make beaches environment-friendly. The FEE’s Blue Flag criteria include standards for water quality, safety, environmental education and information, provision of services and general environmental management. The Blue Flag is sought for beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators as an indication of their high environmental and quality standards. More than 300 beaches along the French coast have a blue flag. The implementation of Blue Flag programme in the country was launched by the central government with the prime objective of enhancing standards of cleanliness, upkeep and basic amenities at beaches. Accordingly every beach has to strictly meet 33 environment and tourism-related conditions to qualify for being accorded the tag. Over 4,000 beaches have qualified for award of Blue Flag tag so far in the world. As the focus of the state is to attract more tourists to generate more self-employment and employment and government revenue, the state authorities should expedite the process for complying with the requirements for getting a Blue Flag tag for Miramar, followed by other beaches in the state.
The Blue Flag certification is being implemented under the centrally sponsored Integrated Coastal Management Programme for beach cleaning and development activity from this year. A Blue Flag tag would enhance the image of already famous Miramar beach. Blue Flag certification has been accorded to beaches in almost all the continents; however, Asia has failed to get any of the beaches under the world class standards. Miramar is one of the 13 beaches nominated under the programme and could have been the first in the country and Asia to get the tag had the state authorities taken the issue seriously and complied with the requirements. While Goa missed the bus, the Chandrabhaga beach of Odisha became the first to complete the Blue Flag tag certification process.
The tourism department, which is the state nodal agency, has not even started educational activities for the beach users, which is one of the basic requirements to qualify for the Blue Flag certification, though six months have elapsed since Goa nominated Miramar for qualification under the programme. The central agency monitoring the programme has sent a list of tasks to the state nodal officer of the Blue Flag programme for compliance, asking for an action taken report. Given the prestige attached to the certification and the effect it would have on tourism promotion and attracting quality tourists, the state should act promptly and meet all parameters at the earliest. There is possibility of some resistance to the new initiative from certain sections that are in the habit of opposing even projects that would enhance the image of the state. The government should start creating awareness among the public to take them on board before any protest spoil the scene.
Belatedly the tourism department has appointed a consultant to advise on improving the Miramar beach, disseminating best practices and also on complying with the necessary requirements. The department has to prove that the Miramar beach is clean, has good disabled access, safe sea water and adequate trash collection facilities. It is not yet known whether any periodic study of bathing water quality at Miramar has been conducted by the state government as it is mandatory to send data on periodic monitoring and the number of samples tested over a number of months. It is also not yet known whether e-coli were found to be present in waters on the Miramar beach. Among the other requirements the state has to comply with are provision for ‘fencing’ made to prevent ingress of stray animals onto the beach and provision of drinking water facility at the beach. The state would also need to provide for waste disposal bins along the beach in adequate numbers and toilets with controlled sewage disposal. As the process for certification is stringent the state government must take every care to fulfill every requirement satisfactorily, so that Miramar gets the Blue Flag tag at the earliest, enhancing Goa’s image as a tourist destination. Otherwise, beaches in other states will get a blue flag, making Goa’s beaches look sub-standard.