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President Arias handed out 251 awards and recognitions to different beaches, communities, and educational centers

PROTECTED NATURAL AREAS WILL BE GRANTED A BLUE FLAG

• 11 new participants obtained the maximum rating
• The Boruca indigenous reserve obtained a recognition in the program along with 4 beaches and 2 other communities
• 261,352 native trees were planted
• This program supports the fight against dengue (West Nile disease) in 25 regions

Starting from this year, protected natural areas will have a category within the Ecological Blue Flag Program, since they will be included as a fourth category. This measure will offer better protection to forests that shelter native species of flora and fauna. Moreover, there will be an improvement in the conservation of the water resources and an effective limitation of soil erosion.

This news was broadcasted last Tuesday featuring the hand outs of 251 awards of Ecological Blue Flags to 58 beaches, 29 communities and symbolically to the first 10 educational centers of the 164 that obtained this merit at the installations of the Inbio Parque, in Santo Domingo, Heredia. During 2006, 84 beaches, 71 communities, and 490 educational centers were evaluated.

This year, a special recognition was granted to the local committees of Jaco Beach in Garabito, El Rey Beach in Manuel Antonio, El Cocal Beach in Quepos, Organo Beach in Paqueta, Tarbaca of Aserri, La Carpintera of La Union, and Boruca in Buenos Aires, the last one being indigenous. All of them were very close to receiving the award.

The ceremony was attended by the President of the Republic, Dr. Oscar Arias as well as the Minister of Environment and Energy, Roberto Dobles; the Minister of the Costa Rica Tourist Board, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the Minister of Health, María Luisa Ávila, the Executive President of the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers, Ricardo Sancho, and the members of the commission of the Ecological Blue Flag Program.

It is important to mention that during 2006 eleven new members of the program obtained an “A” score, namely: Dulce Vida Beach in Puntarenas, Camaronal in Guanacaste in addition to the communities of La Suiza in San Rafael, San Miguel in Santo Domingo, Puente Salas, Los Lagos, all in Heredia, La Legua in Aserri, El Guisaro in Atenas, as well as San Juan and San Vicente in Ciudad Quesada.

In 2006, the Executive President of Aqueducts and Sewers (AYA), Ricardo Sancho, included the creation of the plan “Forests, Water and Society: Aiming towards a human encounter with its sources,” whose slogan is “Planting 1000 trees per day for Costa Rica”, supported by the infrastructure of the Ecological Blue Flag Program with its 650 local committees and 461,532 native trees that have been planted, which means more than one thousand trees per day.

Ricardo Sancho also mentioned the signing of an Agreement with the Banco Popular to address social and economical issues related to financing, education, and infrastructure that require basic services, such as the supply of drinkable water and sewers in the different communities of the country.

Moreover, Ricardo Sancho pointed out that there are sections of the infrastructure lacking basic water services. Many communities still do not have proper aqueduct systems and others maintain a poor quality of water for human consumption. Even though Costa Rica is a country of world renowned quality in the ecological area, it has poor treatment of waste waters. Actually, only 2.6% of the waste waters receive some sort of treatment in Costa Rica. This is surely another problem that has to be addressed, if not, the future generations will be suffering the consequences.

The Minister of Tourism, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, emphasized that the Costa Rica Tourism Board supports the Ecological Blue Flag Program due to the importance of sustainable tourism and economics, which is created by local communities, clean beaches, educational centers, and commitment to developing reliable infrastructure.

“The Costa Rica Tourism Board will keep co-financing the Ecological Blue Flag Program because it is a part of our sustainable tourism policy. It is fundamental to maintain our beaches clean, as well as to control and improve the treatment of industrial and domestic waste materials that are dumped into the sea. It is also important for the residents of the communities, hotel entrepreneurs, chambers, and associations in the vicinities of these regions to become part of the solution, so that they can contribute with their efforts to conserve our resources and maintain them attractive for our visitors,” stated Carlos Ricardo Benavides, Minister of Tourism.

Darner Mora, Executive Director of the Ecological Blue Flag Program explained that the strategic plan of the program, which starts this year and continues up to 2012, is to involve new sectors of communities.

“Our expectations for the upcoming years are to try and implement an innovative structure which will allow new sectors to be involved. The program will seek certification from the ISO-9001 standards, as well as the creation of an alliance with the Foundation for Environmental Education from Europe, in order to certify the beaches and marinas on an international level,” stated Mora.

The President of the National Chamber of Tourism, Gonzalo Vargas, acknowledged the efforts that have been made by members of the program through a large number of local committees representing them.

“There is no doubt that the main source that generates tourism in the country is nature. The efforts that many communities have accomplished, especially the ones on the coastal areas, deserve much of our recognition. This accomplishment is proof that there can be a strong tie between sustainable tourism and natural resources allowing the communities to benefit from the industry and at the same time protecting the environment,” mentioned Vargas.

Not only have the accomplishments within the Blue Flag Program allowed us to recognize the sectors involved, but they have also helped with the fight against dengue (West Nile disease) in 25 regions in the country and the plantation of 261,352 species of native trees in different regions of the country that contribute to the conservation of water resources.

ICT Costa Rica Tourism Board (March 2., 2007) San Jose, Costa Rica