Kashmir being the land of lakes, rivers, streams besides full of natural swimming talent is still devoid of any swimming pool due to which children and youth of Kashmir are deprived to opt swimming as a sports besides grow without learning aquatic survival skills which ultimately has heightened the drowning ratio of youngsters in Kashmir.
Swimming is not only a sport but is regarded as life saving skill, however, in Kashmir no such initiatives have been taken so far by the concerned authorities to acquaint children and youth with this skill from the very young age despite Kashmir being one of the most flood prone zone.
The lack of swimming pools in valley has forced youngsters to swim at Jhelum River, Dal Lake, Nageen Lake, Nallahs, and Streams or even in flood channels which proves life threatening for them.
Many youngsters who used to dive at Nageen Lake told Rising Kashmir that swimming in lakes or flood channels are dangerous. “But if there would be any swimming pool within the city, who would go for these perilous acts?” they said.
Showkat Ahmad, 19, who is fond of swimming said they have no access to swimming pools and take risk to learn swimming in different water bodies. “Swimming in lakes or deep rivers looks like a lot of fun, but it’s very dangerous. You can get trapped up on anything and that's it," Showkat said.
Many budding swimmers from Srinagar said that lack of proper swimming facility is main obstruction to opt it as sports besides to master the skill.
"To master swimming skills and opt it as a sport demands adequate and risk free infrastructure which we are carving here in valley," they said and added, "Unlike other States which have ample pools available for sportsperson, our Valley has not even a single pool for sportsperson. We’ve abundant natural swimmers but their talent remains under curtains."
Although many elite schools of Valley have the facility of swimming pools but the students from various schools besides government run schools have no such provision.
Ironically, the Department of Youth Services and Sports which came into being in the 1973 has remained dormant to promote and create avenues for swimming.
Many parents told Rising Kashmir that they restrict their children to swim Dal or Nigeen Lake.
“It is very dangerous to let our children swim in open lakes, rivers and ponds as they can either get drowned or become prey to waterborne diseases,” they said.
Moreover, due to increasing pollution in these water bodies even experienced swimmers residing near water bodies hesitate to swim.
One of the swimmers, Shabir Ahmad from the catchment area of Dal Lake said that he along with his friends have great yearning for swimming but are apprehensive catching diseases as pollutants and sewage empty into lakes.
The National team coach of Water Sports, Bilquis Mir, said that Kashmir being the pool of natural water bodies is still lagging the facilities of swimming pools.
“We are lacking swimming facilities which is the main hurdle. I met District Commissioner Srinagar, Dr. Syed Abid Rasheed Shah and stressed on making swimming compulsory in all schools besides inviting foreign coaches to impart the swimming training,” she said.
In this regard, Swimming Instructor of Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council, (JKSSC) Peer Mohammad Ameen who imparts swimming training at Nehru Park Water Sports Centre, said that there is dire need of swimming pools in Kashmir.
“Swimming is one of the best sport and survival skill which develops strength, endurance, flexibility, courage, coordination, confidence besides that it helps our lungs to work more efficiently, our heart functions efficiently so it’s good for both physical fitness and profession,” he said.
He further said that the dearth of swimming pools poses main hurdles in learning this skill. “The kids who swim in pools learn to float in heavy water that can build their stamina to float or dive in lake water as pool water is much heavier than lake water,” he adds.
He said children need to have a certain amount of strength and coordination to be able to get in and out of water, the skill that they can learn during swimming classes.
“As there is no swimming association currently the children has lost interest in swimming and once the association will be formulated the children can eventually participate in swimming,” Ameen adds.
Swimming experts of valley are of the opinion that the risk of drowning among children can be reduced to a great extent if children are provided proper avenues for learning survival swimming skills through their participation in formal swimming lessons.
“Due to current impediments, many parents took their children to swim in local lakes, rivers or flood channels to circumvent the constraints of accessibility. But the negative side to this is the danger that these bodies of water can present,” they opined.
Ironically, Jammu based Swimming Association of JKSSC is defunct from past many years, depriving scores of children to learn basic swimming skills or to opt it as sports. Moreover, the association that was meant to provide opportunities and platform to budding swimmers of the state failed to hold any activities or competitions besides remained confined to Jammu province only.
Joint Secretary JKSSC, Nazir Ahmad said that they are constructing a swimming pool at Gindun Stadium, Rajbagh to provide facility for kids to learn swimming.
“We can take initiative to create awareness regarding basic trainings, usage of equipments, water level etc but once we will get provision of swimming pool we can hold swimming classes in better and professional way.
He said their swimming coach is imparting training to the kids near Nehru park but he however said that there is a high level of risk to swim in open lakes and rivers.
“Earlier, we had Jammu based swimming association but we had to suspend it as they failed to fulfil the requisite norms,” he adds.
However when Rising Kashmir contacted Director, Youth Services and Sports, Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad for his comments he did not answer the calls after repeated attempts.
However, District Commissioner Srinagar, Dr. Syed Abid Rasheed Shah (IAS), who is also the Chairman of District Disaster Management, told Rising Kashmir that they are involving water sports professionals to impart rescue training to youngsters.
“We are availing the services of water sports professionals for rescue and disaster management besides will facilitate imparting water rescue skills among youngsters in schools and colleges. We will hold programmes in near future and are trying for capacity building in the community,” Abid said.