Punjab canals, rivers swimming claim 2910 unwary victims in 7-year

Muzaffar Ali

Saturday, June 15, 2013 - Lahore—Due to a lack of appropriate water safety legislation especially in respect of canals, deaths related to drowning in canals and rivers have been steeply rising in Punjab. As many as 2910 people have drowned in Punjab’s various canals and rivers during the last seven years and out of them 95 percent were small children and young boys.

This staggering 95 percent ratio shows that child drowning has risen to an epidemic level in Punjab. According to the available data with Pakistan Observer, 52 people have drowned so far during the current year in Punjab and seven out of these victims were small children. District Lahore is on the top of list as compared to other districts where maximum water related causalities were reported.

With the arrival of the much anticipated summer months, people prefer to take bath in canals and rivers to beat the scorching heat. Unfortunately, there is no appropriate legislation done by any government to prevent the rising ratio of causalities.

First time, Pakistan Muslim League-Qauid-e-Azam (PML-Q) MPA Aamir Sultan Cheema submitted adjournment motion in Punjab Assembly regarding making proper legislation of water safety measures to prevent water related causalities in canals and rivers.

The motion reveals that the ratio of drowning has been increased in Punjab during the last seven years so the Punjab government should take measures for recreational non-instructional swimming in public pools to improve surveillance over the activities of young children in order to prevent drowning.

A recent report issued by the Alliance for Safe Children and UNICEF Innocent Research Centre, drowning is a leading killer of children after infancy, and must be considered by policy makers in this public health context. The report further reveals that there is no difference whether a child dies from measles, diarrhea, pneumonia or drowning; it is equally tragic. Like these other causes, child drowning is a leading cause of death in children and now that we know it is equally preventable, it is time to act.”

The data further reveals that as many as 2395 people have drowned in small and big canals across the province during 2006 to 2013 while 515 lost their lives during swimming in rivers. District Lahore is on the top of list where 236 people drowned in canals while 86 died while swimming in rivers. As many as 220 people have drowned in canals in Faisalabad District and 217 drowned in Gujranwala, 146 in Sahiwal, 111 in Rahim Yar Khan. In Sialkot district as many as 203 drowned in different canals while 60 during swimming in river. In category of drowning in rivers, in District Gujrat, about 53 people have drowned, 38 in Attock, and 29 in Mandi Bahauddin.

Talking to Pakistan Observer, Imran Khan Lohani, running a NGO, said that the Punjab government should make learning to swim and water safety knowledge a component of the educational curriculum for all children as it is an essential element of building personal safety and injury prevention skills.

Israr Khan, lifeguard in Rescue 1122, told Pakistan Observer, after the arrival of summer in Lahore, majority of the people prefer to take bath in canals and majority of them are those who are not properly trained in swimming.

He canals a dumping ground for all types of rubbish, as well as collecting broken bottles, rusty tin cans, all sizes and shapes of metalwork. Any of these may lead to an injury or being caught on your clothing while swimming. He said never go to swimming alone. “Children should never be left unattended or allowed to wander off out of sight, adding he said make sure you know what is beneath the surface before you go diving in.

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