It is international recognition conferred on beaches and marinas that meet certain criteria of cleanliness and environmental propriety and equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists.
It was first started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987.
It is run by international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).
Since 2001 it has been implemented in areas outside Europe when South Africa joined.
Criteria: There are almost 33 criteria that must be met by beaches and marinas to qualify for Blue Flag certification. It includes:
Information about the Blue Flag Programme and other FEE eco-label must be displayed.
Environmental education activities must be offered and promoted to beach users.
Information about bathing water quality must be displayed.
Information relating to local eco-systems, environmental elements and cultural sites must be displayed.
A map of the beach indicating different facilities must be displayed.
The beach must fully comply with the water quality sampling and frequency requirements.
The beach must fully comply with the standards and requirements for water quality analysis.
Industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges must not affect the beach Area
The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for physical parameters.
At least one Blue Flag beach in each municipality must have access and facilities provided for the physically disabled
Validation: If approved, beaches are given blue flag tag for a year and they must apply annually to continue meriting right to fly this flag at their locations.
Top countries: Spain (total blue flags: 684), France (492) and Turkey (458). Japan and South Korea are only countries from South/southeastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
Chandrabhaga beach on Konark coast in Odisha was first in Asia to get Blue Flag certification (awarded in June 2019).