KHAR: Abandoned boats are parked on the banks of Raghagan Dam and the surrounding areas present a deserted look unlike the hustle and bustle of the yore.
A few police officials on duty could be seen barring people from visiting the site and having fun there. The bustling tourist and business activity at the big dam in the beautiful Raghagan valley of Salarzai sub-division of Bajaur Agency has come to a complete end after a tragic incident in July this year.
At least seven people had died when two boats capsized in the 50-feet deep dam.
Raghagan dam was perhaps the only tourist spot for the entertainment-starved 1.1 million populations of the Bajaur tribal district. Constructed recently, the dam had become a busiest tourist point within no time.
People from across the district and other parts of the province would visit the area and have fun in the vast dam surrounded by a green plain on two sides and forest covered hills on the remaining two edges.
Boating in the dam was perhaps the most attractive practice. Within weeks of the opening of the dam, hundreds of boats were brought to the reservoir and the people used to ride the boats for fun without taking care of the load or safety measures adopted by the boatmen.
Also, the quality of the boats had not been checked in accordance with the nature of water and depth of the dam.
No security mechanism had been put in place as well. This was the reason that two boats capsized and seven people died in the tragic incident.
A huge rescue operation was launched after the deadly incident to recover bodies, which took several days. In the wake of the incident, the tourist activities and side business on the banks of the reservoir came to an end and it is not clear as to when and how would the tourist activity reopen.
The influx of people to the dam for merrymaking had provided a golden opportunity to the local population of the Raghagan village to start different businesses and earn a handsome amount on a daily basis. Some four to five thousand people would visit the site on a daily basis for leisure trips, said Kamaluddin, a resident of the area.
“My son used to sell pakoras here. He would easily earn Rs4000-5000 a day,” said Mohammad Anwar, a resident of the village.
Apart from the boats, the people had started petty businesses here. Some would sell toys, other popcorns and corncobs. Makeshift tea stalls had also been set up on the sides of the dam, he said. The activities in the dam had given a boost to local transport activities and the non-custom paid vehicles in the district had become a greater source of earning for the local people.
But with the tragedy, all the business and tourist activities came to a complete standstill and the people who had got a job at the doorstep turned jobless again.
The people of the area want the resumption of the activities. But this time not in a random manner. They want proper security measures, training and awareness among the visitors and security for the people engaged in different businesses.
When contacted, Deputy Commissioner Iftikhar Alam said that they had taken up the matter with the Tourism and other line departments.
The reopening of the dam for tourist activities would take some more time owing to the coronavirus pandemic and taking some security measures so that another tragedy may not happen and the people could get an opportunity of healthy recreation activity within their own district.
One serious thing observed during a visit to the dam was the hazardous medical waste dumped on the sides of the dam. However, the district administration was swift enough to take action against the private medical practitioners and others responsible for the mess.
The deputy commissioner within hours of a telephonic conversation with this reporter, sent teams of officials concerned to the site and sealed the clinics besides forcing them to dispose of the medical waste in line with the safety protocols.
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