354 beaches with Blue Flags

Another 27 public beaches in Greece have been awarded Blue Flags this year, indicating that they meet 27 strict criteria set out in European Union directives, it was announced yesterday, bringing the total to 354 beaches and seven marinas. The Blue Flags, awarded in Greece by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, on behalf of the International Foundation for Environmental Education, indicate clean water and beaches, safety for swimmers and a high standard of environmental protection. Inspectors continue to monitor the beaches throughout the summer and if standards are not maintained, the flags are removed, as happened at 21 beaches and three marinas last year. This year’s awards were announced at a conference in Katerini yesterday. The island of Crete received 76 flags, the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece 30, the island of Corfu 26, the prefecture of Magnisia, on the east coast, 22, the Dodecanese islands 45, and the Cyclades 18. In Attica, Vouliagmeni, Astera, Alimos, Varkiza and Lagonissi were among the eight beaches that will be waving Blue Flags. Local municipalities may apply to the Environment Ministry to be candidates for the awards, instituted in 1987. Beaches are judged on the basis of water samples taken every two weeks during the swimming season. The criteria include the absence of industrial waste, processing or urban waste, sufficient garbage containers that are regularly emptied, and regular cleaning of the beaches of rubbish and cigarette butts. No camping should be allowed outside designated campsites, and all vehicles should be banned from the beach.