Abu Dhabi, Oct 4 (IANS) The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has awarded eight beaches in Abu Dhabi and four beaches in Dubai with Blue Flag awards for keeping up with globally recognised standards in environmental protection.
The newly awarded sites in Abu Dhabi were Al Bateen Marina, the Club beach, Sadiyat Island, the Lagoon beach, the corniche beach (phase two), the beaches at the Abu Dhabi Hilton hotel, the Le Meridien beach and the desert beaches on Sir Bani Yas island, reported Xinhua.
"The Blue Flag is a highly prestigious and well-recognised symbol, and serves to highlight coastal excellence internationally," said Lisa Perry, programme director at the EWS-WWF Thursday.
Criteria for a Blue Flag award are seawater quality, regular cleaning of beaches by local authorities, a sufficient number of dustbins onsite and signs which urge visitors to respect nature around the beaches, among others.
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and one of the world's major oil suppliers, has a mainland coastline with a length of 764 km.
The WWF, in association with the local Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS), said in statement that since the UAE began a pilot phase in 2011, the EWS-WWF team has been working with authorities and stakeholders to raise environmental standards of the country's beaches and marinas.
"So for the UAE to now have an additional 12 Blue Flags awarded is a real achievement for the country. This news is very positive and places the UAE as a leader in the Blue Flag programme regionally," said Perry.
Spain currently ranks first, with 571 Blue Flags, followed by Greece with 433 and France (including territories) with 359.
Abu Dhabi has stepped up efforts to diversify its economy, which relies mostly on oil by investing into tourism through expanding its airport and through building more hotels.