That sinking feeling: Only 38 guards patrol Mumbai’s six beaches with 1L daily visitors
Besides the manpower crunch, lifeguards are under-equipped, said one of them.mumbai Updated: Aug 07, 2017 00:04 IST
A day after three boys drowned off Dadar Chowpatty, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is again under attack for inadequate number of lifeguards at Mumbai’s six beaches —Dadar, Juhu, Girgaum, Versova, Aksa and Gorai. Besides the manpower crunch, lifeguards are under-equipped, said one of them.
Only 38 lifeguards man the six beaches, which on average see one lakh visitors daily.
Of them, 11 are permanent while the rest work on contract basis. Many lifeguards said that the number of staff was not always constant, as many are sometimes on off or leave the contract for a better one.
At any given shift of eight hours, there are supposed to be two lifeguards on duty on the beach.
A lifeguard said, “The BMC need to immediately hire more staff. The current number is too low. During high tide days, we get help from the fire brigade department but that’s not enough to patrol and carry out rescue operations.”
For instance, Juhu beach, which is stretched over 4 km and is one of the busiest beaches in the city, has two to three lifeguards in one shift. Currently, during high tide above 4.5 meter, the fire brigade employs 40 of its personnel to patrol beaches.
With an increase in the number of visitors, it was not possible to ensure safety of everyone, complained the lifeguard.
The spot where the drowning occurred at Dadar Chowpatty is designated as a dangerous area and swimming is prohibited. A board put there warns visitors against swimming.
Prabhat Rahangdale, chief fire officer, said that people needed to pay attention to the warning boards. “It ((Dadar Chowpatty) is a rocky seashore. Lifeguards are posted on the beachfront.”
He added that the fire brigade continued to patrol beaches during the monsoon and high tide, warning people to not venture into the sea.
Instead of deploying 40 fire brigade personnel during monsoon, the BMC has been planning to hire 86 lifeguards through a third-party.
These fire brigade personnel are stationed to increase the patrolling of the area and stop people from going near the sea during high tide. During high tide, the BMC has asked citizens to avoid sea shore completely.
Experts say that the fire brigade department, which provides safety equipment to lifeguards, needs to upgrade its rescue preparedness. The department is supposed to provide lifeguards with jet skis, semi-inflatable boats, ring buoys, surf rescue boats, spine boats, rescue tubes, rechargeable batteries and ropes.
However, several lifeguards at Juhu and Versova beaches said they had access to only life jackets, ring buoys and ropes.
Worse, the makeshift watchtowers at all beaches are not as tall as required. This has hampered lifeguards’ visibility and undermines their rescue operations, said a source. These wooden structures often work as resting place for life guards, said the source.
20-year-old drowns off Bandra Bandstand
A 20-year-old man drowned off after he was pulled in by a strong current off Bandra Bandstand on Sunday. Sohail Shaikh from Kurla (west) had gone to the beach with a friend for a stroll.
Sub-inspector Amol Powar from Bandra police station said, “They were walking on the rocks. A big wave crashed on the rocks and they fell into the sea. Shaikh’s friend swam to safety as he knew swimming.” Shaikh was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The police have registered an accidental death report.