The National Sports Council (NSC) has constructed 22 swimming pools across the country. The government has spent a total of Tk 1.3 billion for these. However, most of these swimming pools are lying abandoned due to negligence. There is no water in most of the swimming pools, even if there is water, it is not usable.
The construction of another swimming pool in Rangpur at a cost of Tk 100 million is already in its final stages. The construction of another swimming pool in Bhola at a cost of Tk 80 million has started.
Out of the 22 constructed swimming pools, 10 are still somewhat operational. These pools are being used to teach swimming on a commercial basis. However, conditions of these pools are not up to the mark either. Although four more pools are fairly usable, they are being kept unused. Eight swimming pools are completely defunct.
This sorry state came to the front when Prothom Alo correspondents visited the sites and spoke with relevant people. In several cases, there are allegations of substandard construction.
Expressing his anger over the construction of the Chattogram divisional swimming pool, Syed Shahabuddin Shameem, additional general secretary of Chattogram district sports association, said, “There are defects in some of the instruments of the pool in Chattogram. They have provided substandard materials and we are trying to replace them. The biggest problem is there are no geysers in this swimming pool. Therefore, it is not possible to use the pool during winter.”
There are major flaws in the construction of most of the swimming pools. The biggest flaw lies within the pool pumps. At least 12 of the pool pumps are completely damaged or almost ruined. Although it is still possible to pump water in the remaining pools, there is an abundance of iron in the water. There is no water purification system in place either.
Speaking about this, Nurul Islam, a Munshiganj-based swimming coach, said, “Filter plant is a must for water purification. However, some 10 swimming plants were constructed in Bangladesh around 20 years ago without any filter. Most of those pools are defunct now.”
The swimming pool in Barishal still to be opened
The pools in Barishal and Feni are among the 10 swimming pools that Nurul Islam mentioned. However, the pool that was constructed in the Chandmari area of Barishal at the cost of Tk 37.5 million has not been used even for a day. The dry pool has been abandoned for years. The pool built in 2000 in Daudpur area of Feni has been used only once in 22 years. The Rajbari pool built at the same time could not be kept operational for more than a few months due to the absence of a water purification system. Even the tiles of the pool, which was constructed at a cost of Tk 33.7 million on about 3 acres of land in Bhabanipur of the city, have been completely destroyed.
General secretary of Rajbari district sports association, Shafiqul Islam said said, “I still don't know what was in the tender during the construction of the Rajbari pool in 2003. The big question is why a water filter machine was not installed during the construction of the pool despite the abundance of iron in the water in Rajbari.”
The swimming complex in Bagura has been closed for six years. It was inaugurated on 29 November, 2002 at the cost of Tk 30 million. But officials of the Bogura district sports association complained that there is no water purification system in the pool. As a result, algae accumulates within a day or two after filling the water.
Bogura district sports association’s additional general secretary Sultan Mahmud said, “Although there is a pool in Bogura, it has not been used for six years. We demand the immediate restoration of the complex to give the youth the opportunity to practice swimming.”
The Arun Nandi swimming pool near the Chandpur Outer Stadium was constructed at the cost of around Tk 40 million. It was inaugurated on 3 February, 2008. The pool had been used from time to time since its inauguration. However, it has remained defunct since 2019 due to damaged water pumps and filters. The other equipments, including the tiles, are on the wane now. The building near the pool is also on the verge of being ruined due to lack of maintenance.
The swimming pool in Khulna has been lying idle for the last four years since the completion of its construction in 2018. Due to several complications, the divisional women’s sports association didn’t want to take charge of the pool. Unused for a long time, almost all of the equipment, including the water purification machine and water supply pump, have become defunct.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Halima Islam, general secretary of local women’s sports association and a member of the divisional women’s sports association, said, “We are yet to use the pool for any activity. The pool was not constructed properly.”
Defects in both pools of Gopalganj
The Sheikh Kamal Sports Complex in Gopalganj is also plunged into similar problems. The 27th national swimming competition was held at the Sheikh Kamal swimming pool seven months after the facility opened in February 2014 and that was the first national swimming event held outside Dhaka. But the pool is not used anymore, as its water pump is out of order.
The swimming pool set up in Gopalganj’s women's sports association has remained out of use since the beginning. The pool has no water sources, as no deep tube well was installed during the construction of the facility. The swimming pool in Chapainawabganj, too, is enlisted as out of order. Though an organisation is using the pool by bringing water from an alternative source.
Power is also required to operate the swimming pool. Several districts sports association have dues in electricity bills. The swimming pool in Chandpur once had Tk 2.4 million in dues in electricity bill. The municipality later paid it. The Rajbari swimming pool has an arrear of Tk 400,000 in electricity bills. Many swimming pools are not even operated out of the fear of the electricity bill.
Who is responsible for maintenance?
A district swimming pool requires Tk 700,000 to 800,000 to maintain properly, but the National Sports Council (NSC) finances nothing to this end.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, NSC director (planning and development) Muhammad Sarwar Jahan said, “Although there is allocation for the maintenance of stadiums, indoor stadiums and tennis courts, there is no separate allocation from the government for the maintenance of swimming pools.”
Replying to a query on how the swimming pool would be operated, he said the general secretaries of the district sports association mainly look after it and they must have a plan on what to do to keep the pool functional.
The general secretaries of district sports associations, however, said maintening swimming pools is very expensive, and the district sports association cannot do it alone and it is not possible either to keep the pools functioning without assistance from the government.
What is the solution?
Officials of the concerned district sports associations expressed dissatisfaction over swimming pools remaining out of order after spending millions of taka to construct it. They demanded the swimming pools to be repaired immediately and be maintained properly.
National sports prize winner, former swimmer and coach Laila Noor Begum adviced minimising the maintenance cost of swimming pools. She said, “All damaged pools in Bangladesh can be leased after repairing quickly. Various clubs take the lease of swimming pools in various states in India. Swimmers are created through these clubs. Even school authorities in Germany take lease of swimming pools to teach students how to swim. It is necessary to start such practices in our country; so, our pools at least will not remain unused.”
This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu and Hasanul Banna