By Paula Manoli-Gray
Cyprus is proud to boast a large number of lovely beaches that are ranked as having some of the cleanest waters in the world. But, with record numbers of tourists visiting the island – and a lack of education for locals – issues like cleanliness and safety are set to get worse if concerted action is not taken.
In Larnaca, there are indeed efforts to keep beaches clean. The Larnaka Tourism Board and several Larnaca region authorities and beach operators purchased a state-of the-art sand-cleaning machine in 2015.
And for this season, eco-friendly ashtrays have been placed on 10 popular beaches – free for smokers to use. The aim is to stop the habit of stubbing out cigarettes in the sand and leaving them there in the misguided belief that they are ‘harmless’ and will biodegrade.
These initiatives are to be applauded, but they simply cannot work unless the smokers themselves do their part and actually use the ashtrays, and other beachgoers do their part, too, and stop littering in general.
I don’t wish to see our beaches reaching ‘nanny state’ conditions with inspectors patrolling the coastline and giving out on-the-spot fines to litterers, but if that is what it takes, maybe the authorities should seriously consider it.
And I also believe that they should consider introducing beach-safeguarding conditions to any new coastal developments.
The explosion of interest from foreign developers in building on our coastline offers an opportunity to obligate them to provide the funding – or the staff – for increased lifeguard numbers, beach cleaning and marine-life protection programmes.
We are so eager to sell off our beautiful coastline to the highest bidders and risk its ruin, so why not ask them to contribute to its ongoing upkeep and protection?
Which brings us back to lifeguards. The number of sea-related deaths in the last couple of years is disturbing, and has highlighted inefficiencies in lifeguard numbers.
This is a tough issue, because whilst lifeguards can man organised beaches during certain hours, you can’t have them on every single scrap of sand, or at more remote locations, every minute of the day – or night.
And if we put aside the tragic incidents that occur within the normal parameters, outside of this, you can’t stop people from jumping off rocks, using isolated beaches or swimming in the middle of the night – or under the influence of alcohol.
Thankfully, an increase in the number of seasonal lifeguards and their hours has been confirmed from this month, but it would also be prudent to look at more effective warning signs and deterrents for entering unwatched waters.
More than ever, we need to learn to be ‘friends’ with the sand and sea; it really isn’t in our interests not to be.