Unsafe recreation: ‘Eight people have drowned in Swat River since May’

Locals say failure of authorities to provide safety measures poses threat to lives of visitors

Our Correspondent July 12, 2015
Locals try to avoid walking in floodwater after heavy rains in Abbottabad. PHOTO: ONLINE

MINGORA: At least eight people have drowned in Swat River since May, insiders told The Express Tribune.

“Two out of the eight victims were tourists who were visiting from Peshawar and Bannu to escape the scorching heat,” a civil administration official said.

Every year, a large number of locals and tourists visit Swat River during the summer. Following tragic drowning incidents in the past, the relevant authorities decided to introduce a series of arrangements to guarantee the safety of visitors.

“Signs were put up to show the depth of the river,” the official said. “Walls were put up and barricades placed to protect tourists from entering areas that had a higher water flow. Lifeguards and police were also deputed.”

However, all these measures have been rendered futile due to militancy in the area.

“The walls and signs which were put up were destroyed by the 2010 floods,” he said. Even though locals have made frequent requests, elected representatives have yet to take action.”

Swept away

The failure to take action has posed a serious threat to the lives of visitors. Since there are no warning signs, many tourists do not take precautions. As a result, while eight people have drowned, the bodies of many others have not been found.

According to the official, the body of Janat Gul, a guard at a government high school who is believed to have drowned, has not been found as yet.

“He slipped and drowned on June 2,” he said. “Similarly, a 26-year-old girl from Mardan drowned while taking photographs on June 7. We have not found her body as yet.”

Experts say the fast flow of water has prevented rescue workers from recovering bodies. “They claim the bodies will start appearing on the top of the river during winter when the flow of the river slows down,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.