Low-end swimming pools offer an affordable escape from the heat, but what about safety?
s the mercury remains on the high side, a large number of people, especially the youth, head off to pools of water. For the unentitled, the canal is the go-to place, while the privileged have access to state-of-the-art swimming pools, if not in their homes then at the various posh clubs in Lahore.
A kind of a cross between these two extremes is the many low-end facilities for swimming and water sports that exist on the outskirts of the city, mostly near the Ravi, on agricultural lands. These pools attract big footfalls because of their nominal charges and the cool waters they offer. Their main source of water is tube wells. It would be fair to say that such places have become a profitable business over time.
Ahmed Ali, the owner of a small swimming facility installed at the Lahore-Sheikhupura crossroad, near Saggian bridge, says that he makes between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 every day. On weekends (Saturdays and Sundays), his earnings are to the tune of Rs 150,000 over a 12-hour day. “We operate non-stop on weekends,” he tells TNS. It helps that only a small power generator is needed to run the tube-wells.
These tube wells reportedly pay no taxes. Most of them don’t even exist on records of the concerned administrative and civic authorities.
There’s another type of ‘swimming pool’ to be found, where an empty plot is dug and plastic sheets are laid on the floor. It is then filled up with water. Pools of this type exist in low-lying areas where the people can’t afford an expensive sport or recreation. These pools are considered dangerous as there are no security features and the water is not chlorinated.
For a swimming session, one requires a proper costume — not shorts or torn jeans — and a head-cover and a pair of goggles. One may also apply a sunblock cream for protection from UV rays. However, these items are considered a ‘luxury’ at the abovementioned pools where a majority of the youth from poor neighbourhoods go to beat the heat.
There is no consensus on the use of creams before jumping into the pool. It is commonly believed that these are necessary, but Dr Tariq Chishti, a general physician, says that this — or any other makeup, for that matter — could interfere with the pH levels and chlorination of water.
There’s another type of ‘swimming pool’ to be found, where an empty plot is dug, and plastic sheets laid on it. It is then filled up with water. This type of pools exists in low-lying areas where the people can’t afford an expensive sport or recreation. These pools are considered dangerous as they don’t offer any security features, and the water is not chlorinated.
He insists that those suffering from skin infections or stomach disorders should not be allowed to swim with others. “The pool water is often the primary means of transmission of diseases like diarrhea, hepatitis, typhoid fever and various types of infections of eyes, ears, nose and skin. Proper chlorination of water [in the swimming pools] is the key.”
Jabbar Khan, a safety instructor at a high-profile swimming facility on Defence Main Boulevard, says that most incidents where the swimmers are drowned occur in waters that are over three feet deep. “Those who don’t know how to swim must not leave the shallow waters,” he adds.
A compliant CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) sign must be displayed close to the swimming pool. The presence of a life guard is also mandatory. The guard must be trained in CPR and other techniques to save lives in an emergency situation.
Sadly, the general public seems to have no care for such safety measures. Most people aren’t even aware of these rules. When quizzed, Junaid, a teenager who’s just had a swim at Ahmed Ali’s pool (near Saggian bridge), expresses his cluelessness about the importance of chlorination of water. As for the need for a life guard at the pool, he says, “I’m not bothered about that. I come here to enjoy with my friends, that’s it.”
That said, administration and civic authorities like the LDA, the MCL and city district government should collect data on all swimming pools in and around the city, in order to implement the SOPs. The government should also coordinate with the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) to ensure proper chlorination of the pools.
The writer is a city reporter at The News