September 22nd, 2017 Posted In: editorial

Team TNV

The Nagarmadi waterfall tragedy that killed six youth from Goa sent shock waves across the state. The groups from different places of the state had visited this waterfall on the tragic day when the incident happened. Due to sudden rise in the water levels of the river, large number of people were swept with the flow. Many survived. Six died.
Social media circulated the pictures and videos of the incident which clearly showed the last minute attempt of the deceased to save their lives. The incident did not look like negligence as the water level rose suddenly.
Few people who were part of the group that had gone to the waterfall on the fateful day narrated how unexpectedly there was a rise in the water level.
The incident reminded me the childhood memories when a young girl from Dabhal in Sanguem was drowned at Kali river. Though drowning in the rivers or sea has not been new for me, as a journalist covering day-to-day news, but the particular incident at Dabhal was unforgettable. It was the first such incident that I had heard about during my childhood.
The river, which flows at its own pace, nurturing life surrounding it has been an integral part of our culture and upbringing. Those who were born in Goa’s villages are not new for the rivers and the adventure associated with it. But hardly was it fatal in the past.
Fishing along the river side and taking a plunge in the steady water of river has been a part of our childhood memories. We were well informed about the places where we can swim and where we can’t. The dangerous spots were always avoided, so also fatalities.
But now the time has changed, not the rivers. Picnicking specially during the monsoons have become a part of our recreational activity. There are several spots in the state which are frequently visited by people, mostly in groups, for their day-long enjoyment.
Several times, the youngsters go river hopping every Sunday. Due to availability of four wheelers, it is not difficult to reach from North of Goa to South to enjoy a nice scenic river spot.
There are times when the group is unknown to the perils of venturing in the water in that particular river. If you ask any local, he would certainly advice you, which are the spots where you can, and where you can’t venture. But lack of knowledge leads to several accidents.
In these circumstances, there is an utter need to develop a concept of safety audit of the rivers. The state government along with the local panchayat bodies should do proper survey and mark the places with sign board informing people whether they can enter the water there or not. If they can do it on the beaches, why can’t they do it on the rivers? Local panchayat bodies should be involved in the entire exercise.
The places which are safer to swim and which are not safe needs to be properly demarcated. This will help the first-timers to decide whether they want to enjoy the beauty sitting on the banks or can take a dip in the water. As it is rightly said, precaution is always better than cure.
While marking the spots as safe or unsafe zones, the panchayat bodies can develop the spots for tourism. The river banks can be a new beach front for the coastal state where local youth can be employed as lifeguards and facilities like restaurants can be created for the picnickers.
A strong economic activity along such spots can be developed. Few can gain employment, and those who go for picnic can also get the facilities that they require. This will certainly boost the concept of hinterland tourism taking away the spot from crowded beaches.
The footfalls at Dudhsagar waterfalls is a living example of how a beautiful spot can be an attraction to the travellers from across the world. We have several such spots which have to be properly developed. A forward thinking in the tourism sector is required for that.
State government’s proposed master plan speaks of encouraging hinterland tourism activities. Development of riverfronts can be one of the highlights in it. Let the world know that Goa lies along the rivers, just the way it is on the beaches.
While doing all this, the state government should also conduct a study probing the reasons behind each of the drowning. Every time there is a death, the local police register it as an unnatural death and shut the case being accidental. After that, the place is left for more people to die.
There is an infamous spot called ‘Movacho Guno’ in Sattari which is known for deaths due to drowning. Why can’t state government let some expert agency study the cause of deaths due to drowning? Shallow water may not be the only reason. There is something more than what meets the eye. We need to know it. The scientific study of such places should be conducted. We can’t let more people die.
The state government has recently made an appreciable move when it decided to make it as an offence to drink and venture in the sea. Make that as a law even in river waters. Let local police keep a check on those who drink and go for a swim in rivers. That will also stop the liquor parties along the riverside which usually leave behind a trail of broken bottles and piles of plastic.
While tragedies can certainly be avoided with proper efforts, there should be a consensus amongst the people that they will behave responsibly when it comes to water. Several times, it is not just a natural cause but also our own ‘care a damn’ attitude that pushes us into such kind of situation.
Let there be pure fun on the river banks with no liquor and safe approach towards the picnicking. Better be safe than sorry.

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About Author

Team TNV

The author is a senior Journalist working in Goa for last one and half decade with the experience of covering wide-scale issues ranging from entertainment to politics and defense.

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