The city of Abu Dhabi has become the first Arabian Gulf location to gain a Blue Flag environmental award for one of its beaches.
The certification has been awarded to the famous Abu Dhabi Corniche, a four mile stretch of coastline which is also a major tourist attraction, featuring big-name hotels as well as amenities such as cycle tracks, volleyball courts, children’s playgrounds and secure swimming areas. According to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the Corniche was recently ranked amongst the top ten visitor attractions in the Emirate in a tourist poll.
Green Prophet has recently reported on schemes to improve Abu Dhabi’s environmental record, especially amongst its marine habitats, and to educate local schoolchildren about conservation. But the Emirates region also faces ongoing challenges to the marine environment, including illegal shark fishing.
Blue Flag accreditation involves a series of environmental criteria in areas such as water quality, environmental management and education, as well as human elements such as public safety and services. The award was made by the Emirates Wildlife Society–World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF), an NGO which acts as the national coordinator for the Blue Flag Programme in the UAE. Accreditations are overseen internationally by an umbrella body, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a “non-governmental, non-profit organisation promoting sustainable development through environmental education”.
Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director-General of the ADTA, said in response to the accreditation that: “This award reflects the hard work Abu Dhabi has put into ensuring our beachfront is sustained to international standards for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. It’s a cause of double celebration to secure Blue Flag status ahead of the arrival of the Volvo Ocean Race, as we’re anticipating welcoming thousands of international visitors, here to witness the flotilla and enjoy a packed programme of entertainment.”
Launched in 1987, Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label run by the non-government, non-profit organisation the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), and is acknowledged by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Abu Dhabi’s Corniche joins beaches and marinas in just over 40 countries worldwide to have won the accolade.
Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa which already have Blue Flag awards for their beaches include Cyprus, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey.
[Photo by Mark Kirchner]