Tragedy of Hundreds of Children Dying in Pond and Well Accidents Can Be Avoided

drowning

In a very tragic accident in Una ( Himachal Pradesh) on August 1, 7 teenagers and youths from Punjab drowned in Govindsagar lake. 4 of them were from a single family. In a joyful mood they had gone for a routine bath in the lake but the water here proved to be very tricky, its depth increasingly suddenly a few steps away. The result was that the very first boy entering the lake started to drown very soon, and when six others rushed after him to rescue they drowned too.

While some local persons had warned these boys casually, it is surprising that at such a danger spot proper warning signs had not been put up.

Just a day after this, on August 3, three school children who had gone to the village pond for a bath were drowned in their village Garh Sarnai. They were not aware of the extra depth at this place.

On the same day, in Surendranagar district (Gujarat), 4 girls and a boy drowned in a pond in Methan village. They were were from poor landless families.

Sometime earlier in May, three children drowned in an agricultural pond of Chakaballapur district ( Karnataka), while six escaped. To take out the bodies, the big pond had to be drained by digging canals.

A few such incidents from the previous year 2021 reveal the different contexts which may be involved in such tragedies. In August in a village of East Champaran district, five girls from very poor families in the age-group 8-12 were collecting snails from a village pond. They were apparently used to this work ad had formed a chain as a precaution. When one of them accidently fell in a deep place, the others while trying to rescue her perished too. It is really tragic these children of such tender age had to incur such big risks just to collect snails.

In Karauli district of Rajasthan in July, 4 boys were going to graze their cattle when they decided to take a bath in a nearby pond. Caught by surprise by the depth of water, all of them drowned.

On 17-18 September, 8 girls died in Jharkhand in two separate incidents while immersing idols in ponds. One would have expected that on a special sacred day when many girls go to ponds, special arrangements for safety would have been made.

Many such incidents in more remote villages do not get reported. However the above sample of some reported incidents suggest that such tragic incidents are quite frequent and tend to be concentrated more in rainy months. Many of these involve children from the poorer families, including children who must work for their subsistence. It is also clear that with more precautions several of these tragedies could have been averted.

This is even more apparent in the case of tragedies relating to children falling in borewells and wells, mainly abandoned ones. Unfortunately while abandoning borewells not even safety precautions are taken. In some cases the small holes are filled up in a very unsatisfactory and weak away and a child who walks or runs over this hole can easily fall into the abandoned borewell.

Although hundreds of such cases have been reported in recent years, adequate precautions are still not taken in many villages. In some cases very extensive and costly rescue work had to be taken up. In a few cases these turned out to be successful, bringing much relief and media attention as well. However such highlighted rescue efforts should not obscure the reality that in most of such accidents, rescue is not possible or successful.  Hence precaution in preventing such accidents remains the best approach. Whenever a borewell is abandoned, the site should be made adequately safe.

Precautions are also needed regarding other wells. In February this year in Nebua Naurangia village in Kushinagar (UP) several girls and women were sitting on a slab used to cover an old well at the time of a family wedding when this slab collapsed and they fell into the well. 13 of them died and 10 were injured.

In the case of ponds danger spots should be regularly monitored and apart from placing warning signs, children should be approached directly to warn them regarding this. Any children, mostly from poor households, who are engaged in hazardous work which can lead to drowning, should be identified and such conditions of helping them should be created so that they do not have to take up such risky work at a tender age.

All these precautions taken together can help to save the life of several hundred children in a single year.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.


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