Lisbon, 13 March 2008 The Ponta do Sal Environmental Interpretation Centre in São Pedro do Estoril will be the scene today for the renewal of the Healthy Beaches Programme, which stems from a Co-operation Agreement between the Vodafone Portugal Foundation, the Navy, the Water Institute, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Biodiversity, the National Rehabilitation Institute and the European Blue Flag Association.
The Healthy Beaches Programme began in 2005 and covers the 125 bathing beaches in mainland Portugal and the Autonomous Regions listed in the attachment.
The renewal of the programme, which aims to contribute to improved safety and environmental quality on beaches, and improved access for people with limited mobility, reflects a highly positive evaluation of the past years work.
In terms of Safety, the programme has provided important equipment such as rescue jet skis, floating stretchers and lifeguard watch towers among other items. A simplified public access mobile communications system has been set up, mobile phones have been provided to lifeguards and a telephone number has been supplied to each lifeguard post covered by the programme. The establishment of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) has facilitated communications between lifeguard posts, port authorities, the Portuguese Lifeboat Institution, municipal and local fire brigades, national emergency numbers and other bodies regarded as having a role in emergency situations. In addition, the SOS Beaches programme, an alert and rescue support system specially designed for beaches without lifeguards that came into service in 2007, will continue to be extended to further beaches.
In terms of Accessibility, the main objective is to improve access on beaches for people with limited mobility by installing special walkways or providing amphibious wheelchairs (Tiralos).
In terms of Environmental Management, beaches are being protected not only through participation in the National Monitoring Programme organised by the European Blue Flag Association but also by the donation of equipment that contributes to minimising negative environmental impacts.
Of equal importance is Awareness Raising, to which the programme has contributed significantly through improved information to beachgoers on safety, accessibility and environmental quality issues.
Since 2006, 82 awareness raising actions have been organised in connection with the Champions’ Summer Programme on various issues related to safety, the environment and health which have involved 50,000 children.
The Vodafone Portugal Foundation has made donations in the order of two million euros for the implementation of the Healthy Beaches Programme. It is forecast that this amount will rise to 5.7 million euros by the end of 2010.