286 persons lost their lives in Fewa Lake in past 12 years

Lekhnath, July 5: In the last 12 years, 286 persons have lost their lives in Fewa Lake, the largest lake in Pokhara. Statistics show that after the rescue tower was built at Barahi Ghat in December 2012, a total of 1,187 individuals have been rescued from Fewa Lake. The tower is under the Kalika Battalion of the Armed Police Force Nepal. 

This year alone, 127 persons have been rescued and 27 bodies have been recovered from the Fewa Lake, said Arun Sharma, Superintendent of the Battalion.  

The Armed Police Force has stationed a 50-member rescue team at the tower. “We have separate teams for rope rescue operations in gorges and diver operations for drowning incidents,” said Battalion Chief Sharma.

There are 767 boats at the eight ghats of Fewa, which covers 5.72 square kilometres. 

The Boat Entrepreneurs Committee has also kept a motorised rescue boat for emergencies. Committee Chairman Balaram Giri said that boat accidents have significantly reduced nowadays except for unforeseen events. 

“The number of passengers on the boats is fixed and life jackets are mandatory, but accidents occur when kayaks and speedboats are recklessly operated,” he said.

“Lakeside accidents occur due to passenger negligence, storms, waves, lightning etc.,” said Giri.

In 1961, 19 locals who went to collect fodders died, when their boat capsised. In 1986, 18 out of 21 people team returning from a picnic died in an accident in the lake. In 2004, six security personnel died when their boat capsised in Fewa Lake.

The  Public relations officer lieutenant colonel of the Western Division Headquarters of the Nepali Army, Bikramdev Giri, said that divers and other trained teams are stationed at Barahi Ghat and two rescue groups with equipment are stationed by the Nepali Army on the shores of Fewa Lake. 

“Four deep divers and a 12-member trained team are kept on standby for the rescue operation,” said Giri. The Armed Police Force, Nepal Police and Nepali Army jointly work if any disaster occurs in the lake. 

Superintendent of Police and Chief of Kaski Police Office Mohan Kumar Thapa said that although the Nepal Police does not have a separate rescue team, they are mobilised immediately upon receiving information.

There are no rescue towers in Begnas, Pokhara and Rupa Lake. Although the Nepal Tourism Board allocated a budget of Rs. 1 million for a rescue tower in Begnas this year, the work could not proceed due to land acquisition issues. 

Despite efforts to reduce accidents in the lake, Ward Chairman Dhak Nath Kandel of Pokhara-31 complained about the lack of cooperation from stakeholders. Also, former Chairman of the Begnas Boat Entrepreneurs Committee, Kandel, said, “The metropolis does not allow the operation of motorboats, and land has not been arranged to build a rescue tower.”

There are about 350 boats in Begnas Lake. However, a motorboat brought for rescue purposes with an expenditure of Rs. 5.2 million by-boat entrepreneurs are not operational, as the metropolis has not granted permission for the operation of motor boats. In 2018, eight members of a family died when their boat capsised in Begnas Lake. Commercial boating has not yet started in Rupa Lake. 

It appears that boating will also become a business here after the structure and size of the lake increased under the Rupa Lake Integrated Conservation Development Project. 

Currently, commercial fish farming is being done in the Rupa Lake. Shivraj Adhikari, Chairman of Rupa Lake Restoration and Fisheries Cooperative, mentioned that the cooperative has one motorboat and 15 wooden boats. The motorboat is used for rescue and security, while wooden boats are used for fishing.

In the event of a disaster in Rupa Lake, locals who can swim and throw nets are mobilised for rescue. Two months ago, a motorboat was used for rescue when a woman jumped off a suspension bridge over the lake to commit suicide. There are occasional accidents in other lakes in Pokhara such as Kamalpokhari, Dipang, Khaste, Maidi, Nyureni, Kasyap Pokhari, and Thulipokhari. 

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