NEWS

Sun still shining on beaches

Greek environmentalists revealed yesterday why fewer of the country’s beaches were given awards for being clean and well-maintained even though Greece retained the second-highest position for clean beaches out of the more than 30 countries rated by the Blue Flag campaign. The Greek Society for the Protection of the Environment said that eight beaches around the country that previously had been awarded the blue flag, had it removed because of a lack of organization rather than because of poor water quality. «The water is checked regularly by the Public Works and Environment Ministry, which takes samples, and no problems were detected,» said Aliki Vavouri of the environmental group. «These eight beaches did not fulfill certain basic conditions of the program to do with the organization of a beach.» she added. «For example, they were lacking in the number of services on offer or the information available to bathers.» «Information is especially important because it makes people more aware of the environment and the beaches where they find themselves,» Vavouri said. Greece was given 403 blue flags this year but it remained in second place behind Spain for the total number of beaches that were rewarded. The Denmark-based organization awarded Blue Flags to 403 Greek beaches, as they fulfilled 29 criteria, including those for water quality, environmental management and safety. The campaign is run by the independent Foundation for Environmental Education, which is responsible for inspecting thousands of beaches around the world. Vavouri said there was no reason to remove Blue Flags from beaches in Varkiza and Voula because of the oil slick that appeared there last weekend as the pollution was cleaned up quickly. Among the Greek Islands, Crete was found to have the greatest number of suitable beaches, gaining 92 Blue Flags, followed by Corfu with 32 and Rhodes with 31. But Skiathos, in the Sporades, was this year’s big winner as seven beaches on the island were added to the list for the first time.