The ceremony was attended by José Pedro Aguiar-Branco, Minister of National Defence, Assunção Cristas, Minister of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning, José Madeira Serôdio, Chairman of the Board of the National Rehabilitation Institute (INR), José Archer, President of the European Blue Flag Association, and António Carrapatoso, Chairman of the Vodafone Portugal Foundation.
The Healthy Beaches programme serves 155 bathing beaches in mainland Portugal and the Autonomous Regions. It aims to contribute to improving the safety and environmental quality of the beaches, as well as accessibility for the disabled. The programme has been operating since 2005 and the renewal reflects its extremely positive record since its establishment.
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 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 terms of Accessibility, facilities for the disabled on beaches have been improved through the provision of special walkways and amphibious wheelchairs. During the programme, the Vodafone Portugal Foundation has donated over 100 amphibious wheelchairs and over 125 walkways.
In terms of Environmental Management, the main focus is protection of the beaches, both through participation in the National Monitoring Programme organised by the European Blue Flag Association and by the donation of equipment that contributes to minimising negative environmental impacts, such as the over 4 million ashtrays distributed on beaches since the start of the programme.
In terms of environmental awareness and the provision of information to beachgoers, the Beaches Live app provides information about environmental matters, safety and accessibility on bathing beaches including, among much other information, the sun exposure risk throughout the day. Users can visualise, for example, the period of the day when the UV index reaches maximum levels. Measurement of the parameters is performed in real time through autonomous monitoring stations powered by solar panels.
Another aspect of the awareness area is the annual Champions Summer campaign, which has already reached some 240,000 young people. Initiatives in this campaign include various activities illustrating the risks caused by carelessness and information is given about safe behaviour on beaches through simple and fun educational games.
To date the Vodafone Portugal Foundation has expended approximately 8 million euros on the implementation of the Healthy Beaches programme. It is forecast that this amount will rise to 12.5 million euros by the end of 2017.