The death of three boys at Aksa beach on Wednesday throws fresh light on the municipality’s failure to implement the Beach Safety Model that it chalked out more than two years ago.
Currently, only 32 lifeguards man the city’s five beaches. On average, there are only five to six lifeguards at each beach, which typically sees more than 5,000 visitors on weekends.
The beach safety plan, mooted in December 2008, by former additional municipal commissioner Kishore Gajbhiye, has been on ice since then. The plan proposed high-tech equipment for lifeguards and was to be implemented in June 2009.
Popularly known as the Baywatch Model, the plan aimed to strengthen security at the city’s beaches, with trained lifeguards, and equipment such as binoculars, lifesaving kits, communication systems, rescue boats and a board displaying the location plan, danger areas, and high tide and low tide timings.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar said: “A new batch of lifeguards will be recruited and trained by the fire brigade. They will be ready before the monsoon”. The fire brigade has a different story to tell. “The recruitment and training will not be complete before monsoon. The safety plan doesn’t include only lifeguards — there are factors such as equipment that have been neglected,” said a fire brigade official requesting anonymity.
Rajnikant Mashelkar (53), the only permanent lifeguard at Aksa beach, is aided by four temporary lifeguards. He acknowledged the lifeguard shortage was a problem, but added: “The main reason for many of these deaths is that people simply have no regard for their own safety.”