Swimming pools drowning in mismanagement

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Eight of the 22 swimming pools, which were constructed by the National Sports Council in different districts of the country for producing skilled swimmers, are lying abandoned. Most of the remaining pools are not usable either.

According to a Prothom Alo report, around Tk 1.3 billion has been spent on the construction of 22 swimming pools. However, some of these swimming pools do not even have water, some do not have pumps, and even if there are pumps, they are not working.

Some 10 of these pools have been used for teaching swimming commercially. It has been found that there are major flaws in the construction of several swimming pools. The most common fault is in the pumps of the pools.

Pumps of at least 12 swimming pools are almost or completely damaged. Although it is possible to pump water in the remaining pools, in most cases the water is high in iron content. There is no proper water treatment system in these pools. A swimming pool requires a filter plant to purify the water. But there are 10 swimming pools in Bangladesh which have been constructed without filter plants.

Two children were seen playing football in an empty swimming pool in Barishal in a photo published on Prothom Alo. The pool, which 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 pool has been lying abandoned for years. The pool in Daudpur area of Feni, which was inaugurated in 2000, has been used only once in 22 years. One of the two swimming pools in Gopalganj was inaugurated in 2014 but is now in a useless state. The other has not been used even for once since its inception. Has the National Sports Council deviated from its goal to produce skilled swimmers?

In riverine Bangladesh swimming was once taught in the ponds, canals and rivers in traditional ways. The number of canals and ponds in the country has reduced exponentially. Therefore, there is no way to learn swimming traditionally in the cities anymore.

In this context, the initiative to construct swimming pools to produce skilled swimmers is undoubtedly commendable. However, if the swimming pool is defective or dried up - then why are billions spent on it?

The National Sports Council finished their work by just constructing the swimming pools. They did not think about how it would work in the future. There is a popular proverb, “think before you act”. Seeing the conditions of the pools it seems they (National Sports Council officials) do not think before work, not even after.

It needs around 70,000 to 80,000 taka to operate a pool properly at district level, which is unbearable for any district sports council. There are allocations for stadiums, indoor games and maintenance of tennis courts. Therefore, it is unfortunate that there is no allocation for swimming pools.

Some swimming experts have suggested covering the cost of maintaining swimming pools by leasing them on a commercial basis or from the money from swimming lessons. This can be done for experiments.

In that case, it should be considered how much control the government authorities will have and how much the commercial organisations will have. If the school and college students can be encouraged to learn swimming, the district sports councils will be able to earn. However, it does not seem to be possible to rely solely on it. It must be ensured that the district sports councils are allocated a specific amount for the maintenance of swimming pools.

If producing skilled swimmers is important, and that is the goal behind constructing pools, then there is no alternative to it. It is the government, who needs to decide who will provide the fund, the national sports council or others.