Lifeguards and forest guards will be stationed at these locations to ensure visitor safety
Lifeguards and forest guards will be stationed at these locations to ensure visitor safetyShutterstock

Goa To Allow Access To Low-Risk Waterfalls Amid Monsoon Season

Forest Minister Vishwajit Rane confirmed that the low-risk waterfalls, which were permitted for public access last year as well, will remain open

In a recent development, Goa has decided to keep low-risk waterfalls accessible to the public this year despite the onset of the monsoon season. This decision follows the Forest Department's initial prohibition on accessing rivers and waterfalls, implemented just two days prior.

Forest Minister Vishwajit Rane confirmed that the low-risk waterfalls, which were permitted for public access last year as well, will remain open. Lifeguards and forest guards will be stationed at these locations to ensure visitor safety. Rane emphasised that new directives have been issued to facilitate this arrangement, underscoring the government's commitment to prioritising public safety.

However, Rane clarified that medium- and high-risk waterfalls would remain closed to the public due to safety concerns from incidents at locations like Mainapi and others in the past year. He noted that the Forest Department determined these classifications after careful assessment and reiterated the importance of safeguarding visitors' lives.

The government's decision to maintain access to low-risk waterfalls comes amid debates regarding the feasibility of a blanket ban on waterfall access during the monsoon. Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte criticised the initial ban, arguing that it overlooked the interests of tourism stakeholders. "We promote monsoon tourism, and waterfalls are a significant draw for tourists and locals alike," Khaunte stated. He suggested designating specific waterfalls for visitation rather than imposing sweeping restrictions.

Goa has decided to keep low-risk waterfalls accessible to the public this year despite the onset of the monsoon season
Goa has decided to keep low-risk waterfalls accessible to the public this year despite the onset of the monsoon seasonShutterstock

The Forest Department initially enforced the ban on accessing rivers and waterfalls during the monsoon on June 16. The order, issued by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, cited rising water levels as posing a risk to public safety. It covered rivers and waterfalls within protected areas and remains in effect until further notice.

Due to frequent drowning incidents, earlier directives from district Collectors on May 26 also prohibited swimming in water bodies, including waterfalls and abandoned quarries. Non-compliance was warned to be in violation of Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.

Local opposition to the ban has been vocal, particularly from residents of Sanguem, who argue that it adversely impacts their livelihoods. Trekkers and nature enthusiasts have also expressed disappointment, noting that the monsoon season offers the best opportunity to experience Goa's natural beauty. Critics of the ban point out that drowning incidents are more prevalent in coastal waters than at waterfalls.

A resident highlighted the economic repercussions of the ban, noting the loss of income for makeshift tea stalls and snack vendors that rely on monsoon tourism. The debate over access to waterfalls is ongoing, with stakeholders advocating for balanced measures that ensure public safety while preserving Goa's natural attractions for tourism.

With inputs from multiple reports

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