Every year, With the blue flags being awarded by the private organization that promotes them, both expectations and controversies arise.. On the one hand, these distinctions are longed to be exhibited by many Spanish tourist destinations as a guarantee of the quality of beaches, coves and other swimming areas. But at the same time, More voices are emerging that question both their true benefits and the criteria by which they are rewarded.. Are blue flags really good for anything? Do they fit the objective parameters?
Last summer, a scientific research The article titled ‘The spatio-temporal evolution of blue flag beaches in the Balearic Islands (1987-2018), their improvement and the consequences of their morphological improvement’ by geographers and geologists from the Universitat de les Illes Balears (UIB) and the Universitat Girona. The result was: “Blue flags have in no way served to ameliorate, restore or reverse the deterioration caused by the frequent use of coastal areas”.
The work of Francesc Xavier Roig, Josep Pintó, José Àngel Martín Prieto and Antonio Rodríguez Perea analyzed 20 beaches of the islands distinguished by the Blue Flag, confirming that this award alone “does not contribute to the geomorphological development of the system beach”. -sand hill”.
“There are no improvements associated with the Blue Flag at the analyzed beaches. Then, we should rethink the usefulness of this label or introduce new environmental accreditation criteria. adapting to the complexities and features of the beaches without thinking of them as a simple solarium,” add the study’s scientific authors.
Where do blue flags come from? This is an award given by a private foundation for the first time in France in 1985. and with the acceptance it received, the idea spread rapidly, first to Europe and then to other countries of the world. However, voices questioning the criteria used from the very first years arose. Flags are currently awarded in Spain by the Environment and Consumer Education Association (ADEAC) and the Environmental Education Foundation.
The main objection is that “a beach can only have a blue flag if it is full of services and infrastructure, i.e. urbanized. It would be difficult for a natural and completely untouched beach to make this distinction, although they argue that the asset bestowed on them is to defend the environment. This is a complete contradiction,” pointed out the mayor of a tourist town, who a few summers ago gave up receiving this award.
“No positive geo-environmental contribution”
What’s more, it can even backfire. The authors of the scientific study, from the University of Girona and the University of the Balearic Islands, “The blue flag promotes a high level of engagement in the provision of services, including leisure services. It does not contribute positively to the geo-environmental point of view. does not prioritize knowing the natural conditions of the beaches.. Many municipalities have decided to forego blue flags and opt for other numbers such as EMAS or ISO certificates”.
The mayors of Catalonia, as well as tourism officials from the Balearic Islands, openly criticized the initiative: “They are still an advertising brand and in no case a quality brand”Joan Manuel Loureiro, mayor of Begur on the Costa Brava, confirmed in the summer of 2017. He also added that “inspections carried out on these beaches are practically nonexistent.”
Biel Barceló, former vice-president of the Balearic Government, for his part, “the blue flag is one thing and the quality of the beaches is another”, emphasizing another aspect: “There is no point in paying a company for something. [los controles] which has already been done”. Barceló, the company responsible for blue flags He asked the government to “a law of 21,000 euros, which the government did not consider a priority”.
The organizing entity defends the initiative
For her part, Ana Pérez-Montero, director of the Blue Flag in Spain, points out: “The Blue Flag is funded by contracts, agreements and subsidies from various ministries in the Autonomous Communities. Andalusia, Asturias, Canary Islands, Catalonia, the Commonwealth of Valencia, Galicia, Extremadura and Murcia, as well as the Provincial Council of Álava and the Autonomous Cities of Ceuta and Melilla so that municipalities and marinas do not have to pay any fees. fee. In the Balearic Islands and Cantabria, municipalities and marinas pay a participation fee of approximately 450 Euros per application. He adds that these amounts cover the expenses of materials, personnel, activities and advice distributed by the business.
Pérez-Montero points out that not just any beach can win this award: “The first requirement for the Blue Flag is that the quality of the bathing water is excellent., based on samples taken during the swimming season. There are 29 criteria divided into four categories: water quality, information and environmental education, environmental management of the beach including compliance with the Beach Law, waste management, presence of toilets on the beaches, and safety including adequate human resources. and lifeguard equipment and services for the disabled at each beach”.
However, the person responsible for the business agrees that: not always a virgin beach, completely protected, you will be able to aspire to these flags., because minimal infrastructure is required: “One of the Blue Flag criteria dictates that beaches must be easily accessible, so a pristine beach cannot be awarded a Blue Flag if it is reached through a dangerous entrance. In terms of infrastructure, the Blue Flag requires the presence of public toilets that can be found in the parking lot, not necessarily on the sand. The presence of a lifeguard post and one or more observation points in the parking lot, depending on the extension of the beach they can be mobile and removed every day. Blue Flag requires no showers, hammocks or other infrastructure.
With regard to the controversy over which the criteria for awarding the badge have sometimes arisen, the organization defends the system used and denies that these criteria have changed. “What they do is continuous improvement, and some are implemented incrementally, with mechanisms for deadlines and commitments. Like this, The jury may award a blue flag to a beach that is in minor violation of the Coastal Code if the city council agrees to resolve this violation. for next year”.
Although an initiative aimed at rewarding environmental quality, until this edition “Blue Flag in Spain included criteria for coastal defense. For this edition, coastal municipalities must identify habitats of community benefit, in order of priority for dune regeneration or the presence of Posidonia or other protected seagrass species. In addition, they need to start the project for the fencing of the dune areas, if there is no fence, they should identify the infrastructures that may be in the dune areas and start the processes for their removal. The Blue Flag for next summer will ensure that, through the gradual implementation of this criterion, all priority habitats for dune regeneration will improve their conservation status”, Ana Pérez-Montero assures.
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