India has been a land of beaches. The total area that comes under the coastline stretches to over 7500 km. However, as a tourist attraction, most of these beaches have failed to lure its visitors despite several attempts by authorities and NGOs to keep them clean.
Blue Flag certification is a category under which clean and hygienic beaches fall. It is something that gives legitimacy to the cleanliness of the beaches. But when it comes to India, despite having a really long coastline, only 10 beaches have made it to the blue flag certification so far.
As per government data, a total of 10 beaches situated in 6 States and 3 Union Territories have been developed at par with the best international beaches with safe and ecologically sustainable infrastructure, acceptable bathing water quality, self-sustaining energy supply, and environmentally sound services/management measures. Beaches that have been conferred with internationally recognized Blue Flag Certification are:
(1) Shivrajpur, Devbhumi Dwarka District, Gujarat
(2) Ghoghla (Diu) Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu
(3) Padubidri, Udupi District, Karnataka
(4) Kasarkod, Karwar District, Karnataka
(5) Kappad, Kozhikode District, Kerala
(6) Kovalam, Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu
(7) Eden, Puducherry district, Puducherry
(8) Rushikonda, Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh
(9) Golden, Puri District, Odisha
(10) Radhanagar (Havelock), Andaman & Nicobar Islands
This data was revealed when an MP in the Rajya Sabha raised a question regarding the cleanliness of beaches and enquired the Centre about the standards that were not being maintained. He did not just ask about the number of beaches that had received the blue flag certification but also asked whether one of the main concerns of tourists visiting beaches is the high level of pollution of beaches and waterways and if so, the details thereof along with the major sources of beach pollution.
To this, the government responded by saying that the National Center for Coastal Research (NCCR) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) conducted studies on the qualitative analysis of litter on different beaches along the east and west coast of India. Studies indicated that the plastic litter from tourism varies from 40% to 96%. As per the studies conducted by MoEF&CC and MoES, most of the harbours and beaches have high beach litter.
However, this was not the most shocking revelation made. What was absolutely new in the public domain with negligible attention paid was that there was no proposal for the Central Sponsored Scheme by MoEFCC for cleaning beaches. Although there have been certain campaigns designed to work in a way that could increase awareness and help make the situation at the beaches better. But the more prominent thing to notice here was that the Centre had been ignoring the fact that cleanliness was being avoided and no money was being allotted specifically to resolve the issue. Neither by the tourism ministry nor by the Ministry of Environment and Climate change.
Mumbai is the best example where the condition of beaches has been dilapidating with each passing year and little cognizance taken by the State to resolve the matter.
On June 30, 2021, a division bench including Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni had expressed concerns over garbage dumped in the sea, causing “danger to marine life” and indicated it would initiate a suo motu PIL to address the issue in the Bombay High Court. The Court said that it was not just important to clean coastlines but also to protect them for future generations.
The HC then stated that, in recent days, particularly following Cyclone Tauktae, various newspaper reports indicated that the Maharashtra coastline, “including beaches in Mumbai and Marine Drive,” was “full of filth of garbage left behind by the sea,” and that these reports painted a “very sorry picture with regard to the cleaning of the coast.”
The bench further stated that it intended to deal with the issue as quickly as possible because a serious situation had arisen during the present monsoon and needed to be handled.
It then requested responses from Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who represented the Centre, and Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who represented the state, as well as counsel for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Several State Governments have taken initiative to have cleaning drives and campaigns for awareness in their respective areas. But most of the measures have majorly been temporary. One of the successful attempts was taken by the government of Goa.
The Goa Tourism dept every year takes an initiative to spend over 10 crores to keep its beaches clean but has remained unsuccessful. Several advisors suggest that the local panchayats should have a major role to play here. Apart from them, visitors should also take special care to avoid litter.
Tourism department, sharing the difficulties they face, often say that the tourists who come to the State solely to party at the beaches are not easy to stop.
A beach official sharing his encounter with a tourist said,” I was on night duty once and was walking across the beach when I stumped into this drunken man who had dropped a beer bottle on the sand. When I urged him to move ahead and throw it inside the dustbin, he refused. When I remained adamant and asked him to not litter the beach, the person got extremely aggressive and threatened to harm me if I said anything further.”
The DMK state government in Tamil Nadu is working to have Marina Beach designated as a Blue Flag beach. To get the Blue Flag accreditation, they are collaborating closely with the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM).
NCSCM will identify the obstacles, sources of pollution, and areas for improvement in order to gain recognition. Alongside the paperwork, practical construction is slated to begin. Marina Beach is the longest stretch, and there will be problems, but the project, government spokespersons say, will cover the majority of the beach. Aside from that, the state government plans to enhance Neelankarai Beach so that it can be designated as a Blue Flag beach.
The ‘Indian Swachhata League’ an inter-city competition with the goal of ensuring garbage-free beaches, hills, and tourism destinations in the country was started in September 2022, according to the press release. The League began with the ‘Swachh Amrit Mahotsav’, a fortnight of activities from September 17 to October 2 of 2022 to galvanise action around swachhata (cleanliness), according to the organisation.
The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry was in charge of organising the events. The official Twitter handle of ‘Swachh Bharat Urban’ posted pictures of various activities under ‘The Indian Swachhata League’.
“Mass beach cleaning! India’s finance capital, #Mumbai, makes a priceless contribution towards swachhata. 4,000+ young volunteers clean 49 beaches covering eight prominent locations and a 50+ km long stretch of beach sand. Kudos!,” it tweeted with pictures of cleanliness activities.
MASS BEACH CLEANING!
India's finance capital, #Mumbai, makes a priceless contribution towards swachhata.
4,000+ young volunteers clean 49 beaches covering 8 prominent locations and 50+ kms long strech of beachy sand. Kudos!#IndianSwachhataLeague #SwachhAmritMahotsav pic.twitter.com/Ow293SvRXj
— Swachh Bharat Urban (@SwachhBharatGov) September 17, 2022
Although the drives have led to minor reflections of awareness in the citizens, the everyday tourists in places like Mumbai, Goa, and Chennai find it difficult to run consistent rigorous plans to avoid the litter on the coastlines of the country. The immediate need for a scheme seems to be the only way out of the problem that circles the beaches of the country.