The drowning incidents in Khanpur Dam continue unabated, despite the restrictions imposed by the district authorities for bathing and swimming.
Three drowning incidents occurred the last week, where three children and a teenage girl drowned in the reservoir.
Eight-year-old Sawan, son of Mohammad Irfan, and 12-year-old Adil, son of Mohammad Manzoor, went to the dam for swimming after attending a wedding party, but they drowned. Residents fished out the bodies and handed them over to the families.
In another incident, a child from Karachi, who was visiting the area with his parents to attend a wedding, drowned in the reservoir. A day later, a 17-year-old girl from Taxila slipped into the deep water of the dam and drowned.
Local resident Fazlur Rehman said that the water level in the dam is low, but owing to underwater muddy debris, people get stuck and they know about the impending danger. They slip and fall into deep water from where it becomes difficult for them to get out safely. He said that residents have saved hundreds of people who have fallen into the water. He said that as a resident living near the dam, in the past decade, he has witnessed dozens of incidents of drowning.
Other residents living close to the dam said that since the place is a popular tourist site and picnic spot, it is not possible to stop people from going into the water.
Efforts by the district authorities to deploy police have also failed to deter the people who choose to ignore warning signs.
Earlier, when public lodged complaints regarding harassment of families by police deployed at the site, former district police issued strict instructions baring police from checking vehicles or people. After these directives, incidents of drowning in the reservoir have increased, locals said.
District officials say that the WAPDA runs the rest house adjoining the dam and people venture out from the rest office. They said that federal and Punjab governments should ensure people’s safety by deploying security staff and swimmers around the dam.
Former Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) Raja Faisal Zaman said that the issue cannot be resolved unless the federal and Punjab governments work together to find a solution.
“As most of the land here is under the federal government’s supervision and the district officials can do nothing,” he said.
The ex-MPA also said that the people evicted from their land to construct Khanpur Dam were allotted alternate land to date and most of the nearby land is occupied by powerful people at the cost of locals.
A local resident, Raja Hanif, said that water from the dam is also supplied to Islamabad and Rawalpindi, therefore, departments in the federal capital should take notice of the matter and formulate a comprehensive policy to stop muddling the dam water and drowning incidents.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2021.
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