They were capturing happy final moments of the trip to Himachal Pradesh on Sunday evening, and now the Hyderabad students who survived the Mandi drowning tragedy will take home a disturbing memory.
In seconds, the negligence of the Larji hydroelectricity project authorities turned a silverstream into a watery grave. A poor warning system, bad time to release water and the lack of communication in the civil administration all combined to cause the tragedy.
NO WARNING SIGN
Shankar, who runs a tea stall near the spot, said the project authorities, who released water into the river often, had never bothered to install a proper warning system. “There is no sign to caution the tourists not to venture near the water on the 19-kilometre stretch from Pandoh Dam to the Larji project, where the river runs along the road,” said Shankar.
“The hooters they blow before the release are audible only in villages in the dam’s periphery and inaudible on the national highway, where most of the tourists stop by to click photographs,” he added.
The dam authorities must inform the civil administration before releasing water but they failed to sound anyone. “The administration must then alert the panchayats functionaries who must warn people on the public address system,” said Bhatwari panchayat president Brij Lal, confirming that no warning had travelled to the panchayats downstream on Sunday before the release of water.
The villagers also question the choice of hour to release the water when, given the longer summer days, there is still activity on the riverbanks. “The authorities could have released water after 9pm,” said Brij Lal.