Two more fell victims to the unguarded Rawal Lake on Tuesday. Muhammad Shayan, 21, and Zauq Aftab, 20, both residents of sector I-10/1, went swimming in the lake from the Kinara Restaurant’s side.
Like many before them, the two youngsters went into deep waters by mistake and drowned. Their bodies were pulled out by local divers and were handed over to their families for burial.
Last month, Jibrael Kazim, a 12th grader, went swimming with friends in the exact same spot. He did not return home alive either.
Kazim, like Shayan and Aftab, accidently slipped into deep water and drowned as he couldn’t swim. His friends, despite trying, could not save him. The body was recovered by navy divers. His father, Syed Kazim Shah, an angina patient, could not bear the shock of losing his only son. Alone, he died of heart failure two weeks after Kazim was buried. His body was found by the police almost five days after his death when locals complained of smell coming out of his room. A postmortem confirmed the cause of death.
“He was under extreme stress since his son’s death. He would talk all day about his son and even went to see the site where Kazim had drowned,” said Shah’s brother, Muhammad Qasim.
According to Qasim, Shah had expressed his wish to fence the whole area around the lake to prevent young boys from swimming there. “He said a fence or a warning sign would have saved his son’s life.”
Shah had also fixed a warning sign where his son had drowned. The sign read: “My young son died swimming here. Please do not take a bath or swim here.”
However, there are multiple places around the lake for young boys to swim. Some places are dangerous, locals say, but there are no warning signs to keep people away.
“We have warning signs at the lake’s entry and a few other places but we cannot put them up in the entire area. It’s impossible to do so,” said a guard of Punjab agriculture department who wished not to be named.
He and his six other colleagues have been deployed at the Rawal Dam spillways to stop people from swimming and bathing. According to him, swimming has been banned in the radius of 500 metres around the spillway, but people do not heed their warnings.
“How can we stop people if they fight back? Sometimes, we catch youngsters and hand them over to the police but if they are in groups they don’t listen to us,” said another guard.
None of the guards, he said, knows swimming and they are in no position to rescue a drowning person.
The place where Kazim died is surrounded by Lake View Park on one side and the Kinara Restaurant on the other. The area is controlled by the CDA, but no guards can be seen along the restaurant side from where most youngsters come for swimming.
A young boy going for a swim to the spot with his friends said, “Actually the boys who can’t swim are the ones who land in deep waters where there is mud and they get caught under water and drown.”
He wasn’t worried about the fact that just one of his six friends accompanying him knows how to swim. “I will only bathe in shallow water. I know where it is deep,” he added.
The authorities for their part refuse to accept responsibility. “What can we do when people jump in despite the warnings,” said an official of the CDA. The authorities need to ponder over ways to bring an end to the dangerous phenomenon, which is likely to claim more lives as summer progresses.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2012.
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