Kashmir faces dearth of trained swimmers, rescuers

Representational Pic/GK

Death of two teenage boys last week in Nallah Sind in Ganderbal district has again underlined the burning need for having training centres for swimmers and rescuers in Kashmir.

As per officials and experts, Kashmir despite being rich in water bodies faces dearth of trained swimmers and rescuers.

The officials said there was hardly any training school for swimmers or any major community swimming pool in Kashmir.

“These facilities are not available even in any educational institution across the valley,” they said.

Riyaz Ahmed, a professional swimming trainer and rescuer said there was no concept of “life guard teams” in Kashmir.

“Most of rescue operations are carried out by people who live near water bodies and have traditional training,” he said.

Ahmed currently trains students in Nigeen Club under a Tourism department program and is part of Swimming N Survival (SNS) Society, a group of few swimming professionals who train youngsters.

“Less than four percent of our population knows swimming. There are barely two percent people who are trained in rescue operations and these include people from fishermen community who live near water bodies,” he said.

Ahmad said at present there were only three professionals licensed to train in swimming and rescue in entire Kashmir.

“This tells the whole story. At a place like Delhi which has almost negligible water bodies as compared to ours, they have 30% of population with swimming skills” Ahmad said.

“We are taking deaths caused by drowning very lightly. As per our own assessment, around 50 people lose their lives every year by drowning in Kashmir. In last six months around 10 people drowned in different water bodies in Kashmir,” he said.

An official from Disaster Management department said a “handful of rescue teams” were located in known places like Nehru park and Manasbal.

He said spots where most of the accidents take place were fast flowing streams and other less know water bodies which were not regulated at all.

“On the top of that there is high dearth of training institutes in Kashmir which makes the situation worse,” he said.

Aamir Ali, Disaster Management’s nodal officer for emergency operation center, said that lot needs to be done in context of training and rescue.

“A joint effort by government and local community is needed in Kashmir. A lot needs to be done by administration and local population so that lives can be saved,” he said.

In May this year, five girls in Zewan area of Srinagar slipped into the water bodies of which two later died. Post 2015, over half a dozen youth drowned in Harwan water bodies, among them, two teenage sibling from Lal Bazar drowned in Sarband water reservoir  in 2018.