Beginning this monsoon, beachgoers along the city's coast will be in safer hands as the lifeguards deployed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation
(BMC) will be equipped with high-seated chairs, spine boards, watch towers and even swanky jet-skis to keep a closer watch on the lakhs of visitors that throng the city's beaches.
The civic body has envisaged a much-awaited Rs. 5.07 crore plan to upgrade its beach safety mechanism and to procure an elaborate set of equipment that will help lifeguards in their rescue operations.
Ranging from basic lifeguarding necessities such as binoculars to setting up modernised watch towers at every beach, most of the equipment proposed will be bought by the civic body for the first time. After a delay of four years, the tenders to procure the equipment were finally floated earlier this month.
"These (the equipment) would help the lifeguards working at the beach to a great extent to keep a better watch and even venture into the sea if necessary. It is a major step towards augmenting beach safety in the city," said Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner.
While cases of people drowning at the beach have increased in the past few years, lifeguards manning the beach were so far provided with only rescue tubes, life jackets, ropes and ring bouys. The equipment is considered inadequate in ensuring safety on the city's 170km shoreline.
Also, to mitigate the difficulties that lifeguards face while controlling unruly crowds at the beach, the BMC has decided to increase the strength of lifeguards from the present number of 35 to 84. Of these, 38 life guards would be recruited from among the local Koli population who are better-acquainted with the beaches.
Officials from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, which is responsible for beach safety, also said that the posts of contractual life guards have been increased from 23 to 34.
While there are twelve permanent lifeguards - two each at the six beaches - the rest are temporary and are deployed on a contractual basis.