Hyderabad: Still no warnings at deadly Umdasagar lake

12 teens drowned in April alone in one part of the lake.

Hyderabad: A cursed lake — that’s what many residents of Lakshmiguda think of Umdasagar. As many as 12 children and teenagers have drowned, all at one part of the lake in April.

The unidentified body of an adult was fished out of the lake as late as last Wednesday. Some of those who drowned were students who went to the lake to enjoy their summer vacation.

None of the victims were aware of the lake’s depth or the dangers that lurked in the waters. Local swimmers say some parts of the lake are marshy, and the presence of aquatic plants makes it more dangerous. In other areas, the lake bed is full of rocks and depressions, trapping swimmers. Even experienced swimmers cannot escape if their legs get trapped.

On the morning of April 10, nine teenagers from Tadbun and Bilalnagar visited the lake. All of them entered the water where it looked shallow. Four of them drowned in the next 10 minutes.

“Only one among them knew swimming. Initially all of them remained near the shore where the water was shallow. Five of them – Amer, Munawar, Salman, Asif Khan and Farukh – moved further ahead. Two of them slipped into a hole in the lake bed and started screaming for help.

Three others tried to rescue them, but they too got pulled in. Locals and others managed to pull out Munawar while the others disappeared in the water,” said Asif’s relative. Swimmers retr-ieved the bodies.

Two weeks after this tragedy, on April 25, three kids from Jalpally, all aged below 12, went missing. The next day, a resident of Lakshmiguda found a body floating. Soon swimmers fished out two more bodies. Police found the kids had been to the lake to swim, though none of them knew swimming.

Local swimmer Md. Amjad said the trio had got stuck in aquatic plants. “Their legs got entangled in the plants,” he said. In the first week of April, some people drowned in the lake. “Since the lake shore is always deserted and bushy, getting help during emergencies is unlikely. In most drowning cases, it is only when bodies start floating, do locals know that people had come here. It’s a cursed place,” said a local Md. Zameer, 32.

According to Survey of India’s maps and satellite imagery, the Umdasagar watershed, extends approximately from Pahadi Shareef to Talabkatta with 30 water bodies. People drown in these parts too. At least five people had drowned at Pahadishareef and Mailardevpally last year.

No move to save lives by authorities

Despite repeated tragedies, government agencies like the Hyderabad Metro Development Authority (HMDA), Ranga Reddy district officials, police and the Irrigation department have not taken any step to prevent people from entering Umdasagar.

There are no warning boards or fencing around the lake and police vehicles go near the lake only when a mishap occurs. Some time ago, local landowners had deployed a guard near the lake. The guard had to leave after he was threatened by people who came to swim.

Most of the victims who have died are kids and teenagers. If there were signboards to warn people about the danger, deaths could have been prevented.
“Neither the HMDA nor any other government department has taken these tragedies seriously,” said former corporator Amjed Ullah Khan, who has filed a petition with the State Human Rights Commission seeking action against government agencies.

Activists pointed out that there are mechanisms in other lakes like Hussainsagar, Osmansagar and Himayatsagar to prevent people from entering the water. “These lakes have fences around them. There are police guards. At Umdasagar, there is no one to keep watch. At night, parts of the lake shore become a den for miscreants,” said activist Majid Ali.

Cyberabad police says patrolling the lake round the clock is not viable. “We do send our teams there sometimes,” said inspector S. Venkat Reddy of the Mailardevpally police station. HMDA said it was contemplating steps to stop people from entering the water using lake conservation funds. But nothing has been finalised. Environment activists from the city alleged that encroachment of the lake bed is rampant.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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