The Pune rural police on Monday said the irrigation department has not put enough safety measures on the premises of Pavana Dam, where four college youths drowned while on a picnic on Sunday. Both police and irrigation department officials, however, say tourists — especially youth — do not pay heed to warnings.
Four students from a pharmacy college run by Jaiwant Shikshan Prasarak Mandal (JSPM) Institute in Tathawade, who had gone for a picnic to Pavana Dam near Lonavala on Sunday, drowned. One of the bodies was fished out on Sunday evening by lifeguards from a local boat club while bodies of three others were fished out on Monday by NDRF personnel from deeper waters near the spot.
On Monday afternoon, when a Newsline team visited the spot where the four had drowned, a group of 12-15 college students, was seen at the same spot on the shore, while some had even started swimming.
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Ashok Rajiwade, who owns a boat club nearby, said, “This is the first such incident at this particular spot. But there have been some in the surrounding areas in the past. Most of these are college students and people who are under the influence of alcohol. On Sunday, the friends of the four students who drowned, came running to us and it was our lifeguards who fished out one of the bodies later. The depth of dam reservoirs can never be judged at any spot because these are hilly terrains.”
A lifeguard working for the boat club said, “There is a small piece of land that comes above the water and forms a small island as the water recedes. These four boys walked up to that spot in deep waters and then must have started swimming. There is a sudden underwater slope at this spot. The four boys drowned there.”
Police said in the past three years, 14 persons had drowned in the Pavana Dam. Nearby residents said the deceased were mostly picnickers who venture into the deep waters unmindful of the risk to their life. The Indian Express has reported in the past that security audit of vital installations in Pune district, which also includes several dams, had loopholes and the administering agencies had not paid heed to repeated communication by Pune rural police.
Inspector Pradeep Kale of Lonavala rural police station said, “We understand that the entire area cannot be fenced but irrigation department needs to at least put some fencing which will bar the visitors from entering the areas that are dangerous. Also there are no warning boards at many places.” He added, “The fencing at some spots is broken and has not been repaired. “It is physically impossible to monitor the entire area even if we start deploying our men in the peak tourist season. Tourists pay no heed to warnings by police and enter the waters. Part of the onus is on them, too.”
More warning boards needed, admits irrigation department
THE irrigation department on Monday ‘accepted’ that it needed to put up more warning boards around the dam premises. Section engineer with the irrigation department’s Pavana dam division, Manohar Khade said, “I accept that more warning boards are required and we are going to put them up soon. The loss of lives is tragic and but it is the responsibility of the people to take precautions when they come to such areas for picnics. We have put up fencing at some places. There are more issues, for example villagers — who have still not been rehabilitated after their displacement in 1976 when the dam was built — oppose every new construction in the area. They always protest against fencing being put up.”
Take precautions, JSPM students told
S L Bhilare, director, JSPM Thathawade campus, said, “We had convened a condolence meet for the students who lost their lives in yesterday’s incident. All students have been asked not to venture into deep waters. We have put up notices at hostels asking students to take permission before going out.”
The Indian Express had also reported earlier that another dam in Lonavala — the Bhushi dam — has seen at least 30 deaths of tourists in the past five years. Pune rural police had barred public entry to Bhushi dam after 4 pm during monsoon as a