Browsing 'beach' News

Photo of Sealine beach for illustrative purposes only.

Patrick Gage Kelley/Flickr

Sealine beach / for illustrative purposes only.

In a bid to improve water safety along Qatar’s coastline, the State Cabinet has given its nod to a new draft law that would require authorities to set up designated swimming zones on Qatar’s beaches.

Under the proposed legislation, signs will be installed informing the public where they can swim – as well as where the activity is prohibited – in addition to establishing hours when swimming is permitted.

The beaches and islands department of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP/Baladiya) will be responsible for creating the safe swimming areas on the country’s beaches. It will also lead a public awareness campaign about the importance of swimming only in designated areas and at the permissible times, according to Qatar News Agency (QNA).

The draft law, which was approved during the Cabinet’s regular meeting yesterday, will apply not only to open coastline, but to “all tourist facilities including clubs, resorts and private areas overlooking the sea.”

According to QNA, the Cabinet stipulated that these will be obliged to provide “security requirements and safety guidelines,” although it does not define what these are.

A spokesman for the Intercontinental Hotel Doha, which has a 500 meter private beach in its complex, said it already undertakes a number of safety measures, including having a clearly marked swimming area in the sea, lifeguards and security guards on patrol, a flag system warning guests of the weather and water conditions, as well as other signage on the beach.

There are no details yet on how this law would be enforced, and what the penalty would be for swimming in no-go areas or out of hours.

Improving safety

The new measures are believed to be an effort towards cutting the number of cases of drowning in Qatar. In recent years, there have been around 20 such incidents each year.

A global report on drowning, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) last year, noted that Qatar had 1.2 deaths by drowning per 100,000 people, based on 2011 figures. Among the report’s recommendations was that each country should set up a national water safety plan.

Mohamed Afraz

Mohamed Afraz

Mohamed Afraz

Although a relatively small state, Qatar has 563 km of coastline and the vast majority is undeveloped. Weekend beach excursions are a popular activity for expats and nationals, particularly in the spring and autumn.

There are numerous private beaches as well as resorts and hotel beaches around Qatar, and many of the latter have roped-off safe swimming areas, lifeguards and safety equipment nearby.

While some of the designated family beaches, such as at Al Wakrah, have marked swimming areas with rock boundaries, the “wild” beaches do not. While shallow, Fuwairit beach is popular with a host of families as well as water and beach sports enthusiasts and becomes very busy in the peak months.

During the Eid al Fitr holidays last year, three people drowned on Qatar’s beaches. Two Kenyan nationals had been swimming at Al Wakrah beach and got into difficulties with strong tides. Separately, another man died at Sealine beach in an unrelated incident.

In October 2013,  two Filipino expats drowned while crabbing in Al Khor on the first day of Eid al-Adha. They too had been caught by the rising tide, while two of their friends eventually made it to safety.

Meanwhile, in June 2012, the deaths of three brothers at Ras Abu Fantas beach at Al Wakrah prompted a Qatar Coast Guard official to warn against swimming at the site.

The official cited strong undercurrents and an uneven seabed and his warning echoed residents’ complaints that there were no signs advising people of the dangers of swimming at the beach.

Children at risk

Most drowning victims are children under the age of five, according to WHO, and in 2012 the public safety campaign Kulluna (“all of us”) focused on spreading awareness of water dangers and not leaving children unattended while at the beach, swimming pool or around any water source.

According to Kulluna, the total number of child deaths from drowning is rising annually. It is the most common cause of accidental death in Qatar among children under the age of four, and 90 percent of drowning cases involve children under the age of 10.

Its advice for water safety while at the beach includes designating an adult “water-watcher” who can keep an eye on children, even if they can’t swim; ensuring non-swimmers wear life-jackets and are always within arm’s reach; and teaching children about the potential dangers of the seaside, including changing currents, uneven surfaces and ocean undertow.

Thoughts?

Golden beach

Neil McBride

Photo for illustrative purposes onl.

As part of an ongoing campaign to clean up Qatar’s coastline, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP/Baladiya) is asking volunteers to give up an hour or two of their weekend to take do some litter-picking.

A 50km stretch of beaches and shore in the Al Arish district in northwest Qatar is the focus of the two-month-long beach clean campaign #, which is being led by the ministry’s department of beaches and islands.

All volunteers, whether organized groups or individuals, are welcome to help bolster these efforts by taking part in the initiative, which will be open to public volunteers on Fridays and Saturdays, a ministry representative told Doha News.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

MMUP/Baladiya

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Last year, 300 volunteers took part in a similar initiative, and the hope is that more people sign up this year.

Trash bags and gloves will be provided, as well as free water and lunch for volunteers.

All prospective volunteers are requested to pre-register at least two days before the weekend on which they would like to take part.

For further details and to register, residents should call 4441 3416, or 5552 9933, or 5522 8057.

Public campaign

The MMUP is one of a number of government bodies responsible for protecting Qatar’s natural habitat and ensuring the cleanliness of public areas in the country.

We All See You

Nat High

Littering campaign.

Last year, it launched its campaign “We all see you, you’re not alone” as a three-year initiative to improve public awareness of a number of issues including littering, dumping waste and spitting in public.

Yellow posters bearing the slogan in Arabic and English can be seen around town, in an attempt to encourage a spirit of civic responsibility.

It is illegal to litter Qatar’s public spaces. Leaving food waste on beaches can attract a QR100 fine, while residents caught throwing out bags of trash on to beaches face fines of QR500.

However, enforcement remains an issue, and the message of “take only photos, leave only footprints” when visiting beaches is often not heeded.

Beach effect

Particularly during weekends in the cooler months, beach-goers regularly report piles of trash, broken bottles and barbecues left behind on the sand.

Grass roots organizations such as the Doha Beach Clean Project regularly organize their own litter-picking events, and some public and private companies have similar drives for their employees.

Al Khor Mangroves

Video Still

Al Khor Mangroves

In May last year, around 400 residents took part in a clean-up of the ecologically important Al Thakira mangroves near Al Khor.

Led by ILoveQatar.net, in conjunction with some dozen other companies, the volunteers filled two trucks full of trash and items for recycling.

While littering has aesthetic issues, it can also cause serious environmental problems.

One of Qatar’s most popular beaches, Fuwairit, is also an important breeding ground for Hawskbill turtles.

Turtles at Fuwairat Beach

Ren Wlasiuk

Turtles at Fuwairat Beach

However human impact, including strewn rubbish, can disorient them as they desperately search to lay their eggs in the same nesting area where they hatched.

Last summer, Neil McBride, a British expat who is involved with Qatar Marinewatch and Qatar Turtlewatch, urged residents to take more care when they go to the beach.

In an opinion piece for Doha News, he wrote: “A turtle, swimming gracefully in the sea, can easily mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish (one of its primary food sources). If that doesn’t make you think, how many of you catch fish or crabs and take them home to eat later?”

Thoughts?