The proposal assumes significance in the wake of the drowning of five Delhi NCC cadets

The Kerala government is sitting on a proposal submitted by the district administration to set up a pool of expert divers to meet challenges posed by water-related disasters for almost a year now.

The proposal assumes significance in the wake of the tragedy in which five NCC cadets of the Delhi Directorate drowned in Periyar at Mahoganythottam in Mulamkuzhi near Malayattoor on Wednesday.

The District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had forwarded a proposal worth Rs. 2 lakh to the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) for sending selected candidates for advanced training in diving at the Goa-based National Institute of Water Sports (NIWS).

Set up by the Union Ministry of Tourism, the Institute offers an array of courses covering the entire range of water sport disciplines such as life saving, boat handling, sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, scuba diving, river rafting and kayaking.

The idea was to have a pool of 40-odd divers to be selected by the experts from NIWS from among the candidates long-listed by the district administration. The right physique and the capability to dive into a depth of 100 meters within 3 minutes were some of the criterion for selection.

The first of its kind proposal was first mooted by the then Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan while inaugurating a chemical emergency management training for government officials at the District Collectorate in January this year.

The District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) chaired by the District Collector diligently worked out a proposal, which was submitted to the SDMA.

With the State government reportedly unwilling to make the financial commitment, SMDA turned down the proposal with the direction to arrange the training locally. DDMA insisted on the demand for sending the candidates to NIWS citing the absence of a local agency with specialized knowledge and re-submitted the proposal. It has been pending sanction since then.

If the government gives its green signal to the proposal, the selected candidates will receive comprehensive and intensive training under a month-long course split into three modules at NIWS. They would also get an opportunity to get accustomed with sea rescue and latest equipment used for rescue operation.

Even the Rs. 2 lakh proposed by DDMA is bare minimum just enough to cover the course fee of Rs. 5,000 per person. Alternative ways would have to be found to meet ancillary expenses including that of the accommodation of candidates if the government declines to bear it.

At present, a good eight to 12 hours are lost by the time divers from the Navy or Coast Guard arrive at the scene of disaster. That delay could prove vital for the victims.

District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareed said that the idea is to have at least two divers deployed in the interior areas. During his tenure at the Fisheries Department the Collector had taken an initiative to get 60-odd fishermen trained in rescue operations with the Marine Enforcement.

Their service is already available in coastal areas. The team of divers, if and when it is set up, would have further expanded the coverage of local expertise in the event of water-related disasters saving precious lives.

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