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Making the oceans safer for one and all

The government intends to give the famed Kovalam beach a major makeover by bringing it under the Blue Flag certification programme. However, the safety of swimmers on Chennai’s beaches remains a grave concern. At least 100 people lose their lives on an average every year.

Making the oceans safer for one and all
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Chennai

While the state boasts of a Coastal Security Group police force, Marine Police Stations and a network of lifeguards, drowning related fatalities occur on an alarmingly regular basis. Even after the Madras High Court had pulled up the state for its inability to prevent deaths from drowning in beaches, the situation has hardly changed.

With thousands thronging beaches every day, the available manpower is barely equipped to deal with the problem at hand. As is the case, the easiest solution deployed by police manning beaches is to try and prevent the public from swimming in the sea. But that defeats the point of living in a coastal city.

The city Corporation would need to go the extra mile to help make our beaches safer for one and all. A starting point could be the solutions employed globally. Take for instance, the US which employs a flag-based warning system at its beaches.

A double red flag sign means that the water is closed to the public while a red flag is high hazard i.e., high surf and/or strong currents. Real time updates from the US government agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, help the local bodies incorporate these warnings every day.

A key reason for many people drowning off Chennai beaches is that unlike the west coast, where a 175-km long continental shelf breaks the waves early, the city’s coastline has been ripped off its coral reefs, making it more vulnerable to rip currents. Besides, wave action also varies depending on the day of the month. While these patterns are constantly monitored by agencies like the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, the data is not passed on to the public by local government bodies.

The need of the hour is for the public to be well informed about the risk implications concerning whether it is safe to swim or not on our beaches. Another step in the right direction would be to restrict the areas for swimming to a few kilometres and appoint adequate lifeguards to man the area. A little extra effort, and deployment of more staffers would go a long way in making our beaches safer and fun.  If private resorts can put these thoughts into action, shouldn’t it be possible for the state to do so?

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