This monsoon, the Panvel Forest Office had promised to appoint security guards at the Pandavkada Falls in Kharghar — which is infamous for tourist deaths — but has failed to live up to its word. Tourists, on the other hand, have already begun thronging the waterfall. Over the past seven years, mudslides have claimed more than 11 tourist lives.
Around 20 days ago, the Panvel Forest Office said it will hire locals from a nearby village, Owe as security guards under the Joint Forest Management (JFM) scheme.
The Pandavkada waterfalls in Panvel. Pic/ Shrikant Khuperkar
On Friday, Sunday MiD DAY visited the waterfall. Not a single security guard or forest guard was seen at the waterfall and its surrounding areas despite the presence of a large number of tourists there. Only policemen from the Kharghar police station were present at the entrance of the waterfall, which is one km away from the falls. “The forest department told us that security guards will be assigned to patrol the waterfall this monsoon, but we have not seen a single guard over the past few days,” said a police official, on the condition of anonymity.
Over the next few days, the Kharghar police may deny tourists entry, if the water level at the waterfall rises. “If the forest department does not appoint security guards in the next few days, we will not allow tourists to visit the waterfall, because chances of mudslides will increase with the increase in rainfall. We do not have enough manpower to patrol the waterfall area,” said the police official.
We tried to contact Anil Parab, range forest officer, Panvel range, but he remained unavailable for comments. A Panvel forest official, however, held the JFM scheme responsible for the delay in appointment of security guards. “Under the JFM scheme, we are supposed to form a committee of villagers and open a bank account for the committee, which will take time. The chairman of the committee died a few days ago and we had to form a new committee and elect a new chairman. We will appoint security guards in next few days,” he said.