Tragic waterfall mishap at Lonawala raises concerns about safety  

On Sunday, five persons, who went for a picnic at Bhushi Dam in Pune's Lonavala, slipped close to the waterfall and fell into the waterbody.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 09:27 IST

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Mumbai: The shocking incident of drowning of five persons of a family in a waterfall close to the backwater of Bhushi Dam in Pune's Lonavala has once again raised concerns about the safety of revellers, picnickers and tekkers during the monsoon in the Sahyadri ranges of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra.

The government has taken the issue seriously and asked officials of the district and police administration and the forest department to function in union and tackle it.

During the monsoon, especially on weekends and holidays, a large number of people throng the tourist spots deep inside jungles and valleys.

On Sunday, the rescue team recovered the bodies of a 36-year-old woman Shahista Ansari and and two minor girls - Amima Ansari (13), and Umera Ansari (8) . Adnan Ansari (4) and Maria Sayyad (9), all from the same family were swept away in the downstream flow of the Bhushi Dam. The family hailed from the Sayyad Nagar area of Pune city.

Pune’s District Collector Dr Suhas Diwase and Superintendent of Police of Pune Rural Pankaj Deshmukh inspected the accident site.

Ahead of monsoon, the Akhil Maharashtra Giryarohan Mahasangh (AMGM), the apex mountaineering body of the state, has come out with an exhaustive list of dos and don'ts, which included prohibitions like - don’t go for selfies in risky locations, watch out for landslides and boulder falls, do not litter in forts, forests, or near water bodies and walk carefully on slippery slopes and riverbanks.

AMGM also runs the Maharashtra Mountaineers Rescue Coordination Centre (MMRCC) 24x7 helpline number (7620-230-231) for coordinating an immediate search and rescue operation required anywhere in Maharashtra, predominantly in hilly and remote areas.

“It is essential to undertake wandering in the Sahyadri during the monsoon, as the Sahyadri takes on an extremely enchanting form during this season. However, wandering in the monsoon should be done with utmost care, as the swift flow of streams, slippery rocks, floods, and intense rainfall need to be navigated carefully. Human life is invaluable, and during this season, human errors can be fatal. By avoiding recklessness and excess, and by taking care at safe locations, wandering can be enjoyed to the fullest,” said Zirpe.

“During the monsoon in the Sahyadri, many tourists venture out for rain tourism. The Sahyadri during the monsoon offers an extremely delightful atmosphere. The entire Sahyadri becomes lush green, with mesmerizing waterfalls cascading down the hills. To experience this natural beauty, many tourist spots become crowded,” said Zirpe, a veteran mountaineer and director of Guardian Giripremi Institute of Mountaineering.

Veteran adventurer and writer Amit Samant, who had covered most of Maharashtra's forts and hills of the Sahyadri Ranges of Western Ghats, said personal safety and listening to instructions are the two key aspects.

“We have to factor in everything in the Sahyadri Ranges, which are different from the Himalayas. There could be bee attacks, there could be snake bites, there could be ankle-twist,” said Samant, adding that in the past, people have fallen from cliffs. “Selfie at odd locations ignoring personal safety and that of others is one of the most dangerous things. This has resulted in several mishaps,” he said.

“One must not fear and lose confidence and not panic. This is the basic mantra. In most cases, people panic and result in mess,” he adds.

“However, while wandering in the monsoon, it is essential to do so with great caution. The pathways in the Sahyadri become slippery due to the rain, rocks become slick, and with the increased flow of water in streams and rivers, the paths can become inundated. Sometimes, sudden heavy rains can lead to flooding, posing a danger to those in the vicinity. Therefore, it’s necessary to wander cautiously and avoid areas with steep slopes or near forts. Taking photos in such areas should be avoided, and one should refrain from directly entering the flow of heavy streams,” added Zirpe.

Published 01 July 2024, 09:27 IST

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