Himachal Pradesh lake tragedy not one-off; 156 drowned in 2020; 145 in 2021; 70 this year

The Gobind Sagar Lake tragedy in Una district that occurred a few days ago in which seven people died is not an isolated case of accidental drowning in Himachal Pradesh if statistics are anything to go by.

In 2020, there were 160 incidents of drowning which resulted in 156 deaths. The following year, 145 people ended up in a watery grave in 146 such incidents. Till August 1 this year, 70 people have drowned in 60 incidents across the state.

According to officials, there are warning mechanisms in place to spread awareness about dangerous levels of water, especially during the monsoon season.

“There is a defined protocol by the government with respect to announcements and warnings. It is advised that people keep from venturing into catchment areas where the depth varies. Utmost caution must be exercised by tourists in this season as the water-bodies appear to be deceptive,” says Shallinder Singh, GM, Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited.

Along the riverbanks, caution signs have been put up and announcements are also made periodically for warnings.

Several measures were put in place after 24 engineering students drowned in Beas River in Mandi district in 2014 after a strong water current swept them away. In some areas, fines have been imposed to keep people at bay.

“On our part, we issue press releases and warnings whenever we estimate risk. We put up placards and boards in key areas and make our best efforts to urge people to exercise caution. If the tourists are aware and pay heed to our warnings, such incidents will come down,” says Sudesh Mokhta, Director, Himachal Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority (HPSDMA).

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Locals describe Sutlej River as ferocious during the monsoon season. A few days ago, 105 tourists were rescued by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in Lahaul-Spiti after the water level rose in Sutlej Beas.

“There are several phenomena that occur in water-bodies. Whirlpools and strong currents pose a huge risk and their extent cannot be measured from the riverbanks. The police department remains on alert during this season and we have also deployed personnel at key locations to prevent any untoward incidents,” said Sanjay Kundu, DGP, Himachal Pradesh.

It may be noted that seven tourists from Punjab’s Mohali drowned on August 1 when six of them jumped into Una’s Gobind Sagar Lake to save a person from their group who had stepped into the water-body for a dip and lost his balance.

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