True blue certified beach beauty

True blue certified beach beauty

On the eve of World Tourism Day, Sandy N Vyjay shine the light on Karnataka’s Blue Flag Kasarkod Beach that’s an eco-tourism model

Rushikonda beach, Andhra Pradesh. PHOTOS COURTESY WIKIPEDIA

The waves of the Arabian Sea crashed relentlessly against the soft sandy beach. A group of uniformed crew members relentlessly combed the beach for trash. Their hawk eyes not missing even the smallest of plastic or other waste. We were at the Kasarkod Beach in the Honnavar taluk of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Kasarkod Beach is one of the 10 Blue Flag certified beaches in India. The state of Karnataka hit a double whammy with two of its beaches figuring in the list of beaches that were Blue Flag certified. The other beach in Karnataka to be certified is the Padubidri Beach which is about 148 kilometres away from Kasarkod Beach.

The ten Blue Flag certified beaches in India other than the two in Karnataka are: Shivrajpur Beach in Gujarat, Kappad Beach in Kerala, Rushikonda Beach in Andhra Pradesh, Puri Golden Beach in Odisha, Radhanagar Beach in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Ghoghla Beach in Diu and Kovalam Beach in Chennai and Eden Beach in Puducherry (the last two being added to the list a couple of days ago). A visit to either of these beaches is in itself an educational experience.

Certification is not a cakewalk

The Blue Flag certificate is awarded by an international environmental organisation called the Foundation For Environmental Education (FEE). The certification is based on 33 stringent criteria that the beaches need to fulfill. These criteria fall into four main areas spanning water quality, environmental information and education, environmental management, and safety and services.
The Blue Flag certification is awarded to beaches where the local community and other stakeholders make a sustained and concentrated effort to manage their beaches without jeopardising the balance of the local environment and nature. 
The criteria are not static and evolve over time. This ensures that the agencies concerned are proactive and monitor their efforts in a sustained manner.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day was Ecosystem Restoration, and this decade is the UN decade on ecosystem restoration. This is a global shoutout to heal the planet. In the light of this, the Blue Flag certifications for the 10 beaches are a shot in the arm for India’s efforts in cleaning up its coast and developing sustainable tourism.

Kasarkod Beach: A beach in action

“The water quality here is tested every month and swimming is allowed based on the reading,” says a staff member who is in charge at the Kasarkod beach. He also points out the current reading which is there for anyone’s reference. Transparency of information and a robust visual management system is evident across Kasarkod Beach. This is another prerequisite for the Blue Flag certification. Another important aspect of a Blue Flag beach is security. “We have 24x7 security over here, provided by 750 CCTV cameras and seven security personnel,” informs another staff member. 
The beach has a crew of 23 team members to ensure that the beach is kept spick and span. This team works diligently from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm collecting biodegradable and plastic waste from the beach and segregating it for safe disposal. Long walkways skirt the Kasarkod Beach. These neat and well-maintained walkways have restrooms, changing rooms, and drinking water facilities on one side. All these facilities are housed in structures made from environment-friendly material.

Community involvement 

Getting a Blue Flag certificate is a great achievement, however, one cannot simply bask in the achievement. The international quality standards need to be managed and maintained. This is impossible without the active participation of the community at large. Visitors who enjoy the beach and its facilities need to be reciprocal and adhere to the code of conduct of the beach which includes disposing of garbage responsibly. 
They also need to indulge in sustainable and environment-friendly practices like using green transport to reach the beach and choosing environment-friendly holiday destinations.

Beads of perspiration glistened on the brows of the crew members who relentlessly cleaned the beach unmindful of the sun. The long stretch of sand too had a sheen because of the light of the afternoon sun. We waved to the 23 members strong team that was doing a meticulous job of keeping the beach clean.
They smiled and waved back at us, not an iota of tiredness was visible on their faces. Their shining faces reflected a feeling of pride for what they were doing, and why not, after all, they were the frontline warriors for India’s quest for the restoration and revival of its ecosystems.

 

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