Lakhs of tourists visit the Bhivpuri waterfall every monsoon
The Bhivpuri waterfall – near Karjat, about 93 km from Mumbai – never looks better than it does in the monsoon, with lakhs of tourists flocking there all the way from Mumbai and other cities. But water is not the only thing that flows freely there – revellers often bring booze on the sly and leave the empty, broken bottles at the waterfall. These discarded glass bottles are the reason the waterfall has now become the local farmers' downfall.
Pain for the locals
"The glass floats down into our farmland, and we get cuts on our arms and legs while working," said Ram Longle, who had to abandon part of his farmland in Umroli because of the glass shards.
"We had to stop farming there. People from big cities don't understand nature. They simply damage it without realising its value. But now their fun is a risk to our lives," said his brother Bhagwan Longle.
Empty booze bottles and glass shards
To add insult to the injury, drunk revellers often misbehave with the locals. "When we stop them from drinking near the waterfall, they start abusing and fighting with us. Saturdays and Sundays are the worst, because of the huge crowd. There are police patrolling teams that do random checks at the village gate, but people still find a way to sneak their alcohol inside," added Ram.
Sopan Thanke, the former deputy sarpanch of Ashane village, said, "Liquor is the biggest problem here. After drinking, many of them misbehave with the local women and girls and start brawling with the villagers."
Float down to the farmland in the surrounding villages
Unsafe for all
Sharad Thange, a Shiv Sena leader in Umroli, pointed out yet another problem: "Because of liquor consumption, several people have died in accidents. After drinking, they are not in control and many have fallen from the rocks or drowned in the waterfall.
"We are planning to raise this issue with the help of our Gram Panchayat to stop such activities by the tourists. We don't want a complete ban on entry to the waterfalls, but people need to understand that their actions are nature and damaging our farms," he added.
Ram Longle and Bhagwan Longle had to abandon part of their land
Two years ago, there used to be a check post at the entrance to the villages, where tourists were charged Rs 10 in entry fees. This not only kept the number of tourists under control, but also allowed officials to check whether alcohol was being brought in by anybody. However, the check post became defunct once the authorities stopped collecting the entry fees. Locals are now demanding the return of the check post, as well as a ban on alcohol anywhere near the waterfall. "Soon we will start the check post again," a forest department official told mid-day.
A Mumbai-based NGO, Environment Life has pedged to clean the Bhivpuri waterfall on July 2. "The waterfall is God's gift to the locals and to Maharashtra tourism, but the government must implement a liquor ban here."
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