Azerbaijani beaches open for 2013 season
By Sabina Idayatova
Azerbaijan possesses enormous natural wealth that is not destined to most countries of the world. The world's largest "lake", the Caspian Sea, washes the shores of Azerbaijan, enriching the life and well-being of the people from the viewpoint of economy, recreation, tourism, transportation and so on.
Especially Caspian beaches are a lovely place of relaxation for both Azerbaijanis and expatriates in summer. Some 10,000 tourists every summer spend time on the beaches in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.
Hygienic purity and safety of the beaches are the main topics for pre-season public discussions. It is necessary to listen to the experts and try to visit the beaches in places which are not dangerous to human health.
On June 10, Azerbaijani Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources announced the results of a monitoring carried out on the beaches of the Absheron Peninsula by the Caspian Complex Environmental Monitoring Administration.
According to the Ministry, 17 modular cleaning devices meeting international standards have been installed in the Bilgah, Buzovna, Mardakan, Pirshagi, Nardaran and "Amburan" beaches and alongside Novkhani and Jorat gardens, in compliance with a decree on "Some measures on the protection of pollution of the Caspian Sea" signed by the President of Azerbaijan in 2007.
The amount of taeniae coli has been minimized in the areas where the devices were installed in the past six years. The monitoring has revealed that in the above-mentioned beaches the contamination degree is within the norms.
However, microbiological contamination has been recorded in Shikh and Sahil beaches where the said devices are not installed. The taeniae coli was recorded above the norm in these areas due to the pouring of large amounts of waste water into the sea without purification.
Besides the purity and cleaning, the new tendency on prices of the beaches` entrance and other services is an important issue. To say frankly, the payable beaches are cleaner, and the bottom of the sea there was verified by rescuers and divers in terms of safety.
There are also free beaches, however, they are sometimes littered and uncomfortable.
All the beaches are free on Absheron Peninsula, which encompasses the capital Baku and its surrounding districts, and measures are taken to prevent undesirable instances in accordance with a relevant order of the Baku executive authorities.
Installation of toll-gates at the entrance of the beach area is prohibited, spokesman for the Trade and Services Department of the Baku City Executive Power Aliabbas Bagirov said.
Copies of the order have been sent to the beach administration representatives and they were informed of the obligations under this document.
"We have repeatedly said through the media that the entrance to the beaches is free," Bagirov said.
The mentioned order also envisages the need for cleaning measures and improvement of the coastal strip, adjustment of changing rooms and showers, identifying sites for trade services in the beach area, preventing cases of paid entry to the beaches, as well as the sale of alcoholic beverages without a license.
"The coastal strip should be kept clean," Bagirov said. "The order (issued by the mayor of Baku in May 2013) says that relevant bodies are entrusted to provide sanitary standards in the beach area. According to the order, the Department of Trade and Services will set up a hotline to receive suggestions and complaints from the population. Very soon we will inform the public about the hotline issue. Baku residents will be able to call that number and inform us in case of detecting irregularities on the beaches."
As for the safety of Baku beaches, people relaxing in the beaches should observe certain rules of behavior.
Mansur Piriyev of the State Water Rescue Service says that due to the undertaken activities, no problems occur in the permitted beach areas in terms of security. According to Piriyev, accidents happen in unrecommended areas.
According to Piriyev, despite warnings, some people endanger themselves in violation of safety regulations.
"With the aim to strengthen control over these territories, we are working in conjunction with local authorities," he said.
Deputy head of the State Water Rescue Service Bakhtiyar Hasanov said penalties may be applied to the people swimming in the prohibited beach areas and proposals are being drafted in this regard.
Aliabbas Bagirov said, "Furthermore, it concerns not only public beaches. The privatized beaches have no right to keep out visitors either if they do not want to use the services."
Bagirov said that if someone collects a fee from people for access to the beach, it is considered illegal.
"Only the rendered services - showers, umbrellas, sccoters, etc. - can be paid at beaches. Entry of the cars is also unpaid, while if someone wants his car to be watched they can pay for this service," he said.
The paid beaches can be divided into two categories: "all included", in which case one pays at the entrance usually 4 to 30 manats (AZN), depending on where the beach is located and services rendered. The other category is the beaches where payment is taken only for the particular services used, but entrance is free.
The second category is more advantageous for those who come to the seaside for half an hour just to dive.
The most expensive beaches are in Novkhani and Bilgah. Although the sea bottom is not uniform in these beaches, the water is clean from the environmental point of view. Each zone has its own flavor; in Novkhani one can not only relax, swim and sunbathe, but also feast on well-known Jorat Gutabs, while in Bilgah there are many aqua parks and other entertainment facilities.
Most of the Baku residents prefer Mardakan beaches and travel there every year. In general, it is understandable, because when the beach business started to develop, Mardakan beaches were almost the first ones to develop infrastructure on the coast. Traditionally older people rest here given the gold-like sand; the shoreline here is one of the most convenient and clean in terms of seawater and sea bottom. Unfortunately, the prices there rise year-on-year, but the entrance is usually free. A similar situation is seen in many well-known beach areas, for example, in Zagulba, Shuvelan, etc.
The more accessible and recently used beaches are Hovsan and Turkan as the fees there are cheaper than those at the above-mentioned beaches. The only disadvantage of these beaches is the location far from the city.
Meanwhile, during the opening ceremony of the 2013 summer beach season held by the State Water Rescue Service of the Emergency Situations Ministry at the Buzovna Rescue Point on June 1, Bakhtiyar Hasanov said that the service is implementing the requirements and tasks to provide safety of the citizens through 32 rescue points, 7 rescue posts, and 4 diver search groups.
New water rescue techniques and equipment that meet high standards were also presented at the opening ceremony. It was noted that the equipment will allow to carry out search and rescue operations in different weather conditions.