If you are visiting the famous Sinhagad Fort after a gap of six months, you are in for a surprise. A picture of apathy till just a few months ago with plastic bags, water bottles and liquor bottles lying everywhere, the fort in the village Atkarwadi now wears a different look.
More than 50 garbage bins have been kept every 200 metres, resulting in a marked improvement in cleanliness at the place. At the toll plaza leading to the fort, visitors are questioned if they are carrying any thing in plastic bags. If so, they are asked to deposit the same at the plaza. A number of notice boards inform visitors about use of dustbins and also the Rs 100 fine to be paid if found littering.
“An inspection squad from the Forest Conservation Committee is constantly taking rounds of the fort to keep an eye on visitors violating cleanliness rules. Besides, there are three women workers appointed to collect plastic bags or bottles, if at all found anywhere,” says Prabhakar Kad, Round Forest Officer and secretary of Forest Conservation Committee.
Over six months ago, the Committee, which has a staff of 32 people at various posts, bought 12 walkie-talkies, which have been given to personnel to update each other about various things, including accidents, traffic and landslide.
“As the fort is situated more than 4,000 feet above the sea level, we faced network problems on our cellphones most of the time. With walkie-talkie, it’s much easier to co-ordinate,” says Nitin Gole, another official.
Another major problem the fort faced earlier was that of parking. Now, the new parking lot can accommodate nearly 2,000 two-wheelers or nearly 6,00 four-wheelers. “We have also built new railings across the fort,” says Kad.
While the fort, previously known as Kondana, sees nearly 400 to 600 visitors on week days on an average. On Saturdays and Sundays, the number goes up to nearly 3,000.
However, the footfall at the fort, which gets most of its visitors during monsoon, has dipped by 40 per cent this year due to low rainfall, officials said.
“The beauty of Sinhagad Fort increases manifold during the rainy season. People not just from Pune, but also from Mumbai and other nearby cities visit the fort. But this year, it has hardly rained and hence the number of visitors has decreased significantly,” says Gole.
There are several kiosks near the parking area selling various snacks items, the most famous being pithala-bhakri and kanda bhajji.
“The business has been very bad this rainy season. Earlier, during the rainy season, we used to get so many customers that we would struggle to cater to them. Now, we hardly get just 5-10 customers per day during the weekends, against the earlier 30 in a day during rains,” says a woman who has been running a stall there for decades.