When the mercury touches 35 degree Celsius next Sunday afternoon, and you get a dolphin fantasy of splashing around in a pool, there will some hard facts to reckon with.
There are just nine swimming pools available now in a city of 1.6 crore people to which one can walk across, pay a small fee, and take a plunge. Pools attached to clubs are fewer than 20, and the membership fees of these clubs run into lakhs of rupees. Rest of the pools belong to housing societies, which again cater to members.
New York, a city of 1.9 crore, has over 54 public pools. There are seven municipal pools in Mumbai (see box). Of these, General Arun Kumar Vaidya Pool in Chembur is shut indefinitely on account of renovation and Mahatma Gandhi Pool in Dadar is scheduled to close for revamp after this monsoon. The repair work will take at least a year.
Apart from the six municipal pools currently functioning, there are four more public ones in Mumbai, of which Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) owns two. One pool, in Lower Parel, is owned by the Maharashtra Labour Welfare Board.
In its vision statement for Mumbai, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) states the need for more parks, gardens and open spaces. But there is no mention of creating more affordable public swimming pools.
This year, the MCGM has set aside more than Rs 4 crore as revenue expenditure and more than Rs 11 crore as capital expenditure for swimming pools. Besides this, Rs 19.5 crore is allocated for revamp (including building a world-class club house) of the municipal pool in Dadar.
With the MCGM maintaining only four of its pools with its own funds, and one of these pools not functioning, how this money is being used is anybody’s guess.
Asked about the state of municipal pools, Deputy Commissioner, Gardens, V.B. Pawar said: “I am on a religious holiday and cannot answer any questions.”
Apart from a scarcity, there are also a few complaints against public pools. The most common is overcrowding. The municipal pool in Dadar, which is 50 metres long, admits 200 people at a time.
“The pool is so crowded in the morning that there is barely any place to swim,” said Ratnakar Matkari, Marathi playwright, director and Wadala resident.
Another grouse is timings. “The morning batch at municipal pools is only for men. What happens to women swimmers who work late?” asked Nivedita Gajdar (32), a financial consultant and resident of Goregaon who did not take a membership with the municipal pool in her area because of the timings.