We took a bold decision to name the beach `a smoke-free environmental beach

The southern coastal city’s public beach was inaugurated on Friday for summer 2011 and was declared to be a smoke-free area for the first time ever.

The inauguration ceremony, which was organized by the city’s municipality in collaboration with Sidonbased scout organizations, took place under the patronage of Sidon’s Mayor Mohammad Saudi and in the presence of Lebanese and Palestinian figures.

According to Mustafa Habli, an environmental activist and an official with the Future Scouts organization, the public beach was transformed into a model beach as the beach’s administration decided, for the first time ever, to ban smoking and forbid beachgoers from bringing their hookahs along with them.

“We took a bold decision to name the beach `a smoke-free environmental beach’,” Habli said, adding that a corner of the beach was dedicated to erecting educational billboards to raise people’s awareness about the dangers of speeding, drug use and HIV-AIDS, under the slogan “Protect Yourselves.”

Saudi spoke during the ceremony and mentioned that this year’s opening of the city’s public beach was different for several reasons.

“This year we’ve finished closing a number of sewage pipes that now pump unfiltered sewage away from the beach, providing a better environment for beach-goers,” Saudi said, referring to the untreated sweater water that used to flow into the sea.

Saudi added that the rehabilitation of the beach involved bringing in new sand to “recoat” the shoreline in order to restore the luster it lost in previous years when sand was being stolen and make it available for summertime activities.

The beach is now also equipped with service facilities and public safety requirements such as watchtowers and safety nets, according to Saudi.

“All this work, which was carried out by the municipality … in collaboration with the city’s scouts organiza tions, is a duty towards the city’s residents and a fulfillment of the promises we made last year, which some doubted we could achieve,” Saudi said.

“It is indeed a special beach and I hope that its organizers will continue in the spirit of serving our community for the rest of the summer,” said Mohammad Hijazi, a swimming enthusiast.

The free public beach is scheduled to host a variety of water sports and activities, such as volleyball, canoeing, kayaking and sailing.

Mariam Hajj Hasan, from the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, called the new public beach area an outlet for both Palestinians and Lebanese, describing its new look as a “culturalsports club.”

Read more about Lebanons beaches here ->