Choki Wangmo

The new swimming pool is the talk of Damphu town.

Located between Damphu public football ground and Damphu Municipal office, since its inauguration towards the end of last month, more than 100 people have availed the services.

Many are waiting for their turn to take a dip in the two pools.

Majority of the visitors are young people.

Ayush, a class-two student, is a regular visitor. Pool operator Dechen said that before the swimming gate opens around 10 in the morning, he is often seen waiting at the gate. He pays Nu 150 an hour.

Donning his superman swimsuit with a matching swimming cap and goggles, he wears a look of someone who takes swimming seriously. “It is my interest. I am excited and like to be in the pools.”

He sometimes skips his classes to be at the swimming pool.

“I visit from Friday to Sunday,” said Ayush who even likes to swim at the pool for adults which is at least 1.8 metres deep.

Kinley Dorji recently came to visit his sister in Damphu. The 25-year-old final year student was also excited about the swimming pools which he heard from his sister.

“Here the pools for adults and children are separate, water is clean and the price is reasonable,” he said.

However, he said that connecting gate between the two pools would make it easier to maintain hygiene. There is a need for separate washrooms and changing rooms for children, he said. “The operators could provide services such as hiring swimsuits.”

Dechen, who leased the pool from the dzongkhag administration for two years, said that at least 10 people visit the pools every day. “The customers increase during weekends.”

She said that since it was first of its kind in the dzongkhag, people are visiting out of curiosity. “Everyone wants to explore.”

De-suups are deployed to control crowd during weekends. To reduce the risk of Covid-19, the visitors are required to use Druk Trace app and take the antigen test. 

Dechen is in the process of developing token system to avoid huge gatherings in the pool area.

Many visitors are monks from Tsirang Dratshang.

Namgay Lhendup and his friends take leave from the dratshang to visit the swimming pools once or twice a week. He likes swimming and is interested to learn more. However, he avoids the visit on weekends as there are more people.

His friend Dawa has visited four times already. He said that he wanted to swim on the day of inauguration but couldn’t due to a huge crowd.

“I come whenever I have free time. A futsal ground nearby would be perfect,” said Dawa who loves being outdoors. 

Dechen’s husband, who is also a passionate swimmer, said that he expects the business to do well in summer. “Winter might be challenging if there is no heating system.”

The dzongkhag administration has plans to install electric or solar heating system and build roof over the swimming pools.

Dechen has to pay Nu 40,000 to the administration. The water bill comes to about Nu 8,000 monthly.

  She also runs a small canteen within the swimming pool enclosure.

They have plans to provide swimming classes in the future and provide membership opportunities to attract more people. They are also in the process of recruiting a guard to avoid accidents at the pool.

The couple said that currently it is challenging. With only one water storage tank and one inlet to the pools, it takes about five days to refill the pools. They drain out and wash the pools twice a month.

During refill and cleaning, they cannot operate for five days.

The two pools— adult (20m by 12m) with 20-people capacity and children (12m by 6m) with a depth of 90cm and capacity of 15 children—were constructed by the dzongkhag at the cost of Nu 4.2 million.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk