In a tale of poor planning, indifference and wastage of the tax payers’ money, three international-size swimming pools commissioned by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in different centres are lying unused for years.
The most glaring examples are two pools built at SAI’s Northern Centre in Sonepat, Haryana (approx cost Rs.1.70 crore) in 2008 and at its Lucknow centre (approx Rs.2.20 crore) in 2005.
The project at Sonepat was completed in January 2008, but SAI is yet to take possession from the Haryana public works department. The complex comprises a 50m x 25m pool, practice pool, filtration plant, changing room, washrooms, office building and floodlights.
“The previous SAI director general passed an order that the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) should take over the project and then hand over to SAI. But CPWD did not agree as the project was not commissioned as per its standards. It then wanted further alterations to be made which were not acceptable to the Haryana department,” said a SAI official based in Sonepat, who did not want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The pool was built on a 100% advance deposit work basis, which means it has been wasteful expenditure so far.
The Kolkata pool was inaugurated twice (2006 and 2008) but is yet to be used. Due to technical problems related to civil work, the SAI is yet to take over the Rs.3.35 crore project from CPWD.
Building the pool itself faced a big challenge due to heavy iron content in the water. Thus even if the pool is thrown open, it would be difficult for the authorities to manage as maintaining the pool is expected to cost around R35 lakh per annum.
The Lucknow project was completed in mid-2005. The 50m pool also has a diving facility and the depth is between 6-12 feet.
However, in 2005, FINA, swimming’s world governing body, made it mandatory to have separate pools for diving and races, for which the depth should be a uniform six feet.
While that ruled out the pool from being used for top-level meets, SAI officials haven’t even used it for training.
“Nobody is ready to take the risk of opening the pool with a maximum depth of 12 feet,” said a SAI swimming coach. In fact, Lucknow SAI officials twice submitted a new proposal for R One crore, in 2011 and 2012, to level the depth at 6 feet.
SAI’s director infrastructure, Sanjiv Baranwal, inspected the facility in the first week of May but no action has been taken.
“I visited both Lucknow and Sonepat and have taken note of the projects. The delay at Lucknow is due to some technical issue and I have told officers to expedite the work,” SAI DG, Jiji Thomson, said.