India is increasingly showing commitment to becoming a sustainable, environmentally-friendly tourism destination.

The country worked hard to win the iconic “blue flag” certification for its beaches. For the first time, eight Indian beaches have received the coveted status, proving their dedication to a safe and sustainable environment.

Managed by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Copenhagen, the Blue Flag Programme is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary awards for beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators.

In order to qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of 33 stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained. The best practices will then give beaches the coveted eco-friendly status. An award which, in the case of India, will also provide a worldwide recognition of some of India’s beach destinations.

Overall, India is aiming to become a model as a sustainable eco-friendly tourism destination. It is a hard task, but the commitment of the Indian government is showing positive results.

With its over 7,500 km of coastline on both the east and west coasts, India is an important seaside destination. Despite this asset, the country still needs to strengthen its image as a beach tourism destination in international markets. Only a handful of Union States are already established as fully-fledged seaside destinations by international travellers. Among them are Goa, Kerala or Tamil Nadu.

Eight beaches included in the Blue Flag Programme

India started to look seriously in 2018 at applying strict environmental and socially responsible criteria for beaches. A pilot project was applied to one selected beach in each coastal state of the country.

It was only in early 2020 that India decided to compete for the Blue Flag nomination. India’s ministry of environment, forests and climate change worked hard to present a shortlist of 40 beaches across the country. From that number, a list of eight beaches was deemed compatible with the Blue Flag criteria.

In October, India officially received confirmation that Kappad beach (Kerala), Shivrajpur (Gujarat), Ghoghla (Diu), Kasarkod and Padubidri (Karnataka), Rushikonda (Andhra Pradesh), Golden (Odisha) and Radhanagar (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) had been accepted.

“It is an outstanding feat, considering that no Blue Flag nation has ever been awarded for eight beaches in a single attempt,” Prakash Javadekar, India Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change stressed in a tweet message.

“This is also a global recognition of India’s conservation and sustainable development efforts,” he said.

According to local authorities, such a nomination will help stir the interest of potential visitors. The government expects that attendance to the beaches will likely jump by 50% to 60%. Efforts were conducted by the government to refurbish beach infrastructure around the country in preparation for the certification.

100 Blue Flag beaches in five years?

As an example, India Environment ministry launched the Beach Environment & Aesthetic Management Services (BEAMS) programme for sustainable environment management measures, pollution reduction and safety/surveillance of beach visitors. The programme also encourages local authorities and stakeholders to implement and keep high standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

India is eyeing the coveted certification for 20 more beaches from the Blue Flag Centre in 2021. But its ambitions are for even more than 20. It hopes to obtain certifications for 40 beaches very rapidly. According to Prakash Javadekar, the Minister of Environment, this number could even reach 100 beaches over the next five years.

Few Asian countries are currently included in the Blue Flag list. Japan, South Korea and UAE are the only other Asian nations to have been conferred with two Blue Flag beaches, However it took them over five years to receive the qualification.

In total, the Blue Flag recognises over 4,600 blue flag sites in about 50 countries.

Photo – top of page: Nicobar Islands (Here Havelock Island) – one of the eight destinations rewarded by a Blue Flag (Photo by Vikramjit Kakati – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

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