Drownings in Chennai

Chennai Beaches have a reputation for high drowning deaths, that’s about to change.

Apart from being home to the longest natural urban beach in the country, Chennai shorelines hold another reputation, high records of drowning in the sea- Some are trying to change that.


National Crime Records Bureau recorded 248 deaths in 2011 and released shocking figures of drowning deaths every year, as proof of the fact that the city has been amassing rising death tolls over the last decade. Chennai has found itself on the top of this list more than once, over 88 other major cities.

A majority of these drownings occur on the busiest beaches in the city like Marina and Elliot’s.

Reports from the Anna Square police station recorded 41 drowning incidents off Marina alone in 2015. In spite of constant patrol and stern warnings, the people find a way around to venture unsupervised into the sea. Although it is not against the law to swim in the city beaches, the authorities wish to avoid untoward incidents that can be prevented with education and warning.

The sheer length of the coastline makes surveillance a herculean task and will also require vast resources. Instead, raising awareness about beach safety can impart a much better and longer lasting effect.

Accidents can usually be traced back to lack of information and subsequent poor decision making.

“Don’t blame the sea” says Showkath Jamal, an ocean literacy advocate, “Most victims are either non-swimmers who never intended to be in the water or those who were under the influence of alcohol. Of course, the ocean is not your backyard pool that you jump into whenever you feel like, neither is it a watery grave that lures people to their demise. If you understand the ocean you can get in and get out of it, having a lot of fun in the process, he adds.

A lot of drowning incidents could have been prevented if the victims had access to information.

Information like the depth of the water, strength, and direction of the current and their ability to swim in given conditions. Beach safety education empowers people with life-saving knowledge and trains them to read the sea like a book.

The ability to understand how the water in the ocean behaves differently from other water bodies, the changes in terrain under the water, the cycle of the tides, the physics of the waves and currents and how to respond to an emergency situation can make all the difference between life and death. Bay of Life Foundation provides beach safety programs that teach you how to understand the sea and introduce you to the skills needed to stay safe at the beach.

Organised in association with Bay of Life surf school, an award-winning organization known for safety and expertise in water-based activities, this program is designed to make you ‘sea-worthy’ and help spread awareness to lessen accidents.

“The ocean is not really a dangerous place if really know how it works. It’s a great place to have fun only if you understand her” says Christan Noel, safety instructor working at Bay of Life.     

With enough awareness and safety measures like dedicated lifeguards and instant medical aid, death tolls can be curbed and accessible knowledge about the ocean will also open new avenues for its conservation.

Written by Jeryn Omen, volunteer at Bay of Life Foundation.

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