Accidents threaten charm of Phewa

POKHARA: Frequent accidents have raised security concerns in the Phewa lake. Ashish Ghimire and Ajay Bhattarai, residents of Baidam, were killed when their boat capsized on the eve of Dashain.

Pramod Rijal, 21, a resident of Kathmandu, drowned in the lake on September 6. Rambhakta Poudel of Lekhnath municipality lost life on July 8 there.

Failure to prevent such deaths on time can have a negative impact on those visiting the lake from home and abroad.

According to Baidam Ward Police Office, seven persons drowned in the lake in the past six months. Six of them died in course of swimming while the other was killed during a boat ride. There are others to have committed a suicide in the lake.

On September 26, 2004, when former king Gyanendra was on a visit to the lake city, six security personnel sank and died during a patrol in the adjoining villages.

"It has now been made mandatory for security personnel to wear life jacket while out in a search operation in the lake," said Khoj Bahadur Gurung, chief, APF Muktinath Brigade.

In 1961, 19 persons were killed in a boat tragedy in the lake while 18 picnickers drowned there in 1986.

Tourism entrepreneurs, local body representatives and security officials said effective measures should be adopted in order to prevent such incidents in the lake.

"The boat operators should be cautious about the condition of the boat and the number of people boarding it," said Ganesh Bahadur Bhattarai, member, Nepal Tourism Board. Many lives can be saved if it is mandatory for every boat to keep at least four life jackets and two tubes.

He suggested arranging for motor boats and trained rescuers in view of accidents.

"There are only 33 life jackets for 700 boats," said Buddhi Bahadur Nepali, chairman, Phewa Boat Operators' Association.

"Efforts have been initiated to reduce the number of accidents," said Kaski CDO Shambu Koirala. The boat operators have been instructed to develop their code of conduct and implement it, he added.

The executive plans to make it compulsory for everyone riding a boat to wear a life jacket in the near future.