Since the 1980s, the European Union (then the European Economic Community) has a tradition of creating thematic years in order to stimulate debate and awareness of certain themes. Intercultural dialogue (2008), nutrition and health (1994) and action and combating violence against women (1999) were some of them (2021, in fact, is the year of rail transport).
The proposal is that measures and actions are put into practice throughout that specific year. In 1987, the European Year of the Environment, the Danish NGO Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE) presented a concept that had already been used in France, where some spas encouraged sewage treatment and bathing of the water with awards in the form of blue flags. The idea would be to take the proposal to a continental level.
In 1987, the beaches of ten countries were assessed. The movement expanded beyond European borders in the following years and in 2001 South Africa and Caribbean countries joined in the fun.
what is taken into account
There are a number of criteria, such as offering environmental education activities, monitoring the health of coral reefs, community commitment to sewage treatment, maintenance of waterfront buildings, lifeguards, first aid equipment, selective garbage collection, supply of drinking water, toilets with sewage treatment etc.
From the items evaluated, you can see that the focus of the award is on beaches with intense use, popular, in or near urban areas.
Every year, beaches, as well as marinas and tourist boats, are evaluated and awarded. As beaches are public, they are registered by the governments (at the local or federal level, in case the beach is located in conservation units or national parks). A technician from the program analyzes the site and sends his opinion to the national jury.
If approved, the beach documentation is forwarded to the international jury.
Today, the award is present in 49 countries. In Europe, where she started, she is recognized and acts as a tourist attraction. There are most of the “blue flag” beaches, presumably in the Mediterranean region: Spain, Turkey, Greece, France, Italy and Portugal have hundreds of award-winning beaches.
The only outsider among the biggest champions is the Nordic Denmark, home of the FEE (with the internationalization of its shares, it took the “Europe” of the name).
Brazil has few awardees
In Brazil, the award is still not well known. There are 18 blue flags on beaches, the majority (11) located in Santa Catarina.
According to Leana Bernardi, national coordinator of the Blue Flag Brazil, this can be explained by the fact that the headquarters are located in Florianópolis. “We have a greater facility in motivating local managers, but the program has been growing in the Southeast and showing promise in the Northeast and North”, he says.
But the challenge is big:
We still have some difficulties in publicizing, and our beaches also face sanitation problems and the presence of irregular constructions.”
For the Brazilian tourist who is not familiar with the concept, what can you expect when you see this symbol? “Visitors must find an orderly place with rules of use that guarantee their safety, as well as quality services and opportunities to get to know the local environment better”, explains Bernardi.
The beaches awarded the blue flag receive technical support from the program and are monitored throughout the year with inspection visits and meetings (currently virtual, because of the pandemic). “Awareness campaigns are part of the obligations of local managers”, says Bernardi.
Something that already happens in Europe and that can be replicated in Brazil is the tourist stimulus offered by the flag. The visitor associates it with a good, well-structured, clean and sustainable beach status, the flag starts to attract a larger public and, consequently, the pressure on the beach, in terms of water quality, waste management and the like, is bigger.
For this reason, Bernadi explains, the award is not eternal and lasts only one year. Sustainability is a daily exercise.
BLUE FLAG BEACHES 2020/2021 IN BRAZIL
- Lagoa do Peri Beach – Florianópolis/SC
- Praia Grande – Governor Celso Ramos/SC
- Praia do Conceição – Bombinhas/SC
- Mariscal Beach – Bombinhas/SC
- Quatro Ilhas Beach – Bombinhas/SC
- Estaleirinho Beach – Balneário Camboriú/SC
- Shipyard Beach – Balneário Camboriú/SC
- Praia Grande – Penha/SC
- Piçarras Beach – Balneário Piçarras/SC
- Praia da Saudade (Prainha) – São Francisco do Sul/SC
- Praia do Forte – São Francisco do Sul/SC
- Tombo Beach – Guarujá/SP
- Prainha – Rio de Janeiro/RJ
- Reserva Beach – Rio de Janeiro/RJ
- Peró Beach – Cabo Frio/RJ
- Ponta de Nossa Senhora do Guadalupe Beach, Frade Island – Salvador/BA
- Guarajuba Beach – Camaçari/BA
- Itacimirim Beach – Camaçari/BA