Rayagada: The attractive tourist spot of Nagabali River near Maa Majhighariani Temple in Rayagada of Odisha has become a killing zone. No less than 27 tourists have died of drowning in the river while taking a bath in the past 5 years.
The temple of Maa Majhighariani, the presiding deity, the suspension bridge and the Nagabali River make the area of Rayagada city ideal not only for devotees but also for tourists. It was normal practice for devotees to go to the suspension bridge and the river after visiting Devi’s shrine.
Hundreds of devotees with families and friends from Rayagada and neighboring regions in addition to neighboring Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh come to the temple daily. Seduced by the clear and fresh water of Nagabali, they also bathe there. In fact, the river is a hot spot for tourists for its natural ambiance in winter.
But the river has become a kill zone over the years due to the lack of safety measures or the absence of lifeguards. According to official figures, up to 6 tourists died of drowning in Nagabali in 2017 when the suspension bridge was built to facilitate the rapid movement of security forces deployed for an operation against the Maoists in the area.
While 8 tourists drowned while bathing in the river in 2018, 6 died in 2019, 0 in 2020, two in 2021 and two in 2022 so far. While a total of 27 people have drowned in the river over the past 5 years, fire personnel have saved more than 25 tourists from drowning.
In the latest incident, three sons of A Gopalkrishna of Eluru from Andhra Pradesh were swept away in Nagabali on Thursday. While Gopalkrishna was able to save his two sons, the third disappeared. His body was found on Saturday after being carried downriver in Parvatipurma district, Andhra Pradesh.
Despite the increasing number of tourists in the river, neither the temple authorities nor the district administration have taken measures to prevent tourists from bathing in it. Apart from the installation of a notice board at the site warning visitors not to enter the river, no other safety measures are in place.
According to locals, although Nagabali looks calm on the surface, there is a strong undercurrent. In addition, its rocky ground has many cracks and crevices which prove to be a deadly trap for people who cannot swim. The situation worsens in the rainy season when the river has a strong flow of water and current on the surface as well. Despite the threat of death lurking in the river, no preventive measure has proven fatal, they added.
They demanded the deployment of lifeguards on the banks of the river and a fire station nearby. The suspension bridge, which has weakened due to lack of maintenance, also needs to be repaired as it could collapse at any moment. Considering these factors, urgent measures must be taken to prevent people from losing their lives in the river in the future, they said.