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Goa tourism department announces new beach plan

05 March 2008. MYSTERY SHROUDS the death of 16-year-old Scarlette Keeling Eden, from England whose semi-nude body was found on the Goa shore on February 18 in the once hippie heaven of Anjuna in North Goa. Initial reports pointed to a death by drowning but with every passing day there is more to her death that meets the eye, than just death by drowning. With at least one or two drowning deaths per week and an average of 50 to 70 deaths every year Goa’s beaches are increasingly gaining notoriety.

The increasing number of deaths on Goa beaches, which includes locals, has been a cause of concern both within the tourism department and locals withering in anger.

After a few plans in beach safety had fallen flat in recent times, comes another plan in beach safety. The latest safety plan is planned by the Goa’s tourism department headed by its director Elvis Gomes.

“Goa’s tourism authority has promised to spend £20m to put trained lifeguards and life-saving equipment in place on Goan beaches, following the latest in a string of fatal accidents involving foreign visitors to India’s smallest state,” says a report in The Telegraph.

“Every year we hear of a number of cases of drowning and even if swimmers in trouble are rescued, there is no immediate medical attention that can be given to them,” Gomes, has been quoted by the paper as saying.

“Goa currently has no effective safety measures on its beaches,” he says. The plan of action is to appoint a private contractor to train lifeguards.

“Mr Gomes wants to appoint a private contractor to train lifeguards, supply first aid and rescue equipment, and provide ambulance service at Goa’s most popular beaches, starting with Baga, Sinquerim and Benaulim. It will initially cost £20m and the tourism department plans to extend the scheme to all Goa’s beaches,” the report adds.

At the start of the season, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) posted 52 trained lifeguards replacing the existing 80-odd lifeguards, on various locations along the 105 km coastline, to prevent incidents of drowning. The Men in Orange are currently manning 27 beaches, each lifeguard monitoring a kilometre stretch of the beach belt from 9 am to 6 pm. Deployed in pairs, they are provided with 15 items of hi-tech life saving equipment required for rescue and post-rescue treatment of victims.

The GTDC spent Rs 20 lakhs (US $50000) on the training of the lifeguards and purchase of equipments like high visibility binoculars, pocket masks, oxygen resuscitators, portable oxygen cylinders, fluorescent jackets, hand microphones, water goggles and first-aid kit boxes, mobile lifeguard observation chairs and beach observation posts..

But sadly the appointment and modernisation has failed to stem the death toll. And GTDC failure to appoint an additional 48 lifeguards to the coastline has forced public-minded citizens like Audhumber Shinde to approach the Mumbai bench of the High Court in Goa with suggestions that the government should engage motorboats in rescue operations and put up beach nets to make the beaches safe. 

The petitioner had approached the court in regard to the drowning deaths and insufficient number of lifeguards on the beaches as the government went back on their proposal to employ 120 lifeguards and 20 supervisors instead employing only 51 lifeguards to man 32 beaches.

Goa gets some 2.5 to 3 million tourists every year. So, the next time, when you are in Goa do not be enticed by the fatal combination of cheap liquor and the ocean, but tread a cautious path. If you are not careful and fortune fails to be by your side, than you may as well join the surging drowning deaths’ list

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