The sewer flows into the Caspian Sea

The sewer flows into the Caspian Sea

In June, the beach season will open, the Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology will announce the pollution of seawater in some beaches, and cleanliness in others. Every year, the bacteriological indicators of seawater on the beaches of Absheron remain the same: the northern coast of the peninsula is relatively clean, and beaches near Baku, Sumgayit, Yalama, and Khachmaz can reward bathers with serious illnesses.

There is also no change in the long-standing problem of illegal fences blocking the sea from "ordinary vacationers." Every year and repeatedly, the press and TV show kilometer-long fences along the sea, rarely there is information about the demolition of barriers after a protest by residents (a spree), but new fences appear. Nothing changes.

Where there are no barriers, beaches are rented by businessmen who build canopies, tables, toilets and changing rooms on the shore.  Everyone builds according to their taste and pocket.  The cabins of previous years are dilapidated over the winter, resembling huts on chicken legs, water flows out of the shower cabins onto the sand.  Sewage drains flow into the sea on the beaches in Zagulba, Buzovna, Novkhany in full view of vacationers, although they are unlikely to help raise the level of the Caspian Sea, which is rapidly shallowing. Poultry farm waste floats on the surface of the water. Readers report that in Bilga and Nardaran, where elite seaside establishments are developing, sewage also flows into the sea without cleaning.  They post photos of earthworks on the beach on a social network, scaring each other with the prospect of laying another sewer with a drain into the sea.

We are unchangeable in the bad. Responding to criticism, local executive authorities report on the normal conditions created for vacationers on the beaches, or talk about their lack of authority. What should be demanded from business if there is no criterion for the concept of "norm" on the beaches of Azerbaijan? The only measurable indicator remains the number of E. coli per unit of seawater (the permissible norm for the presence of E. coli in water is 5,000 units per liter), on the basis of which the Ministry of Health issues a summary of the beach's compliance with sanitary and hygienic standards.  And how many and what kind of shower cabins, changing rooms, tables and benches for food, sun beds and sunbeds, towers for rescuers, where used water from restaurants and showers should be sent, what to do in the absence of a sewer network - it seems that there are no such criteria in Azerbaijan. 

On March 30, 2017, by presidential decree, it was decided to prepare an Action Plan for the development of beach tourism for 2017-2020. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been appointed as the coordinating body. During this period, the Ministry was obliged to develop standards for the maintenance of vacationers at sea, infrastructure, and human safety. To introduce the concept of a "beach operator" - tenants of coastal areas who were supposed to build recreation facilities in accordance with the standards from the Ministry of Tourism. Where there is no sewerage, tenants and the authorities are obliged to build local sewage treatment plants.  The action plan specifically mentions the obligation of operators to leave open passages to the sea every 200 meters of the fence, and with the placement of information signs.  The Ministry of Emergency Situations, the State Committee for Property Affairs and local executive authorities have been appointed responsible for the latter requirement.

In 2017, the then Minister of Tourism, Abulfaz Garayev, announced the preparation of a state standard on beach tourism and the transfer of this document for adoption to the State Standardization Committee. However, the press service of the Institute of Standardization informed the Turan agency about the absence of such a standard in the country. The institute's website also reported this at the agency's request. The staff of the department reported that the subjects of the beach business and authorities should be guided by the relevant directives for each individual area of catering, water rescue, cleanliness, etc.

In this case, the independence of the buildings and the lack of a uniform appearance of the beaches in Azerbaijan becomes clear. What should beach businessmen look up to if the state does not offer a single standard?

In this, Azerbaijan lags behind Russia, Turkiye and European countries. In Russia, there is a standard requiring the safety of swimmers from all types of watercraft. Buildings and structures must comply with current urban planning legislation. Building structures and finishing materials on beaches must be resistant to the adverse effects of the aquatic environment and high humidity. During the construction of beaches, it is necessary to provide conditions for tourists with disabilities. Etc. - in GOST R 55698-2013 "Tourist services. Beach services. General technical conditions". There is nothing like this in Azerbaijan.

Our country does not seek to obtain the international Blue Flag quality status for beaches (Blue flag certificate, issued since 1987). As the adviser to the head of the Tourism Association Muzaffar Agakerimov said, the "Blue Flag" is a symbol of the quality of the beach, an indicator of its compliance with sanitary standards. This means that wastewater is not discharged into the sea, there is no industrial water discharge nearby, the beach is periodically cleaned, and safety is ensured. In Europe, before the start of the summer season, beaches are certified - a special commission carefully checks them, determining compliance with accepted standards.  We have nothing to look up to. 

Turkiye's beaches are among the top three in the world, along with Greece and Spain. Beaches in Antalya and other tourist regions of Turkiye have received a "Blue Flag", so visitors from all over the world go there in summer.  Until the international standard is adopted and implemented on the beaches of Azerbaijan, we should not expect such a wave of foreign tourists as in Turkiye and Europe.

In order to bring the practice of beach management in line with international standards, we propose to implement a set of measures that would include:

1. Creation of a regulatory framework for the regulation of the beach sector, which would reflect:

- government regulation

- the legal status of the beach: public, rental, private, etc.

- access to the beaches

- tariffs

- sanitary and environmental standards

- facilities

- security

- public catering 

- reporting

2. Create a single beach area management center 

The implementation of these measures will make it possible to implement a unified systematic state policy in the field of beach tourism to classify beaches depending on their legal status - public, leased or private, thereby clarifying the rights to management and use. This classification will simplify government oversight and improve public access policy. In addition, the framework program will establish uniform standards in the field of tariffs, sanitation, environmental protection, amenities, safety, catering and mandatory reporting procedures.

In this way, it will be possible to improve the quality of beach areas, contributing to sustainable tourism and local economic growth, while preserving the natural beauty and integrity of the coastal environment.


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