Of 102 scheduled posts of lifeguards, 70 have been vacant for the past one year.
Despite the increasing number of drowning cases along beaches in the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been making do with only 32 lifeguards, of which 23 are on contract and nine are BMC employees.
Two boys drowned off Juhu beach on Sunday, but their bodies could not be recovered until late evening because the choppy water made rescue operations difficult.
The BMC has now decided to extend the contracts of these 23 lifeguards until September end.
The BMC has 32 lifeguards at Aksa, Gorai, Juhu, Versova, Madh and Marve beaches. The frequent drowning cases have also prompted the BMC to transfer the responsibility of beach safety from the Health department to the Fire Brigade since April 2010.
"The Fire Brigade is planning to recruit more lifeguards and train and equip them," said Joint Municipal Commissioner S.S. Shinde. To strengthen security on beaches, the BMC will have trained lifeguards with watch towers on every beach and essential equipment such as binoculars, life-saving kits, first aid, communication systems, lifeboats and rescue boats.
"We will also display boards on all beaches with basic information like timings of high tides, emergency contact numbers and the contact number of the lifeguard [in case he is not around]," Shinde said.
Rahul Shewale, chairman of the BMC’s Standing Committee, had recently demanded that the corporation recruit fisherman as lifeguards. "They are a sea-friendly community and can do a better job than others," Shewale said.