The Pune Police, last weekend of June, booked 50 revellers who dared to visit the Tamhini Ghat in Mulshi to enjoy the picturesque greenery and the shimmering waterfalls.
That’s the harsh reality of this monsoon, thanks to the Covid pandemic!
As the monsoons make their glorious entry in the Sahyadri Ranges that prominently run through the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, the clouds kiss the hills, sometimes making them invisible, as if in a soft white embrace. The series of enchanting hills that looked barren in summer are promptly adorned in a carpet of rich greenery with shimmering waterfalls dancing down their slopes.
The monsoon breeze, seen, through the swaying of the myriad trees that dot the hills, hill slopes and valleys and felt through its unseen embrace as you tread along, sways hundreds and thousands of nature lovers, particularly youngsters, to throng the hot spots of Lonavala, Khandala, Mulshi, Thoseghar, Malshej and some others – most of them concentrated in the districts of Pune, Satara and Junnar.
Walking and dancing in the rain, bathing under the pristine waterfalls, particularly the famous Bhushi Dam in Lonavala, eating piping hot bhutta, pakodas and tea from vendors lined up at these hot spots – and yes, even creating a ruckus with alcoholic drinks, blaring music and noisy chatter at intolerable levels have been a part of this three decade monsoon tourism for groups of youngsters. Deaths due to drowning have been the bane every wet season with at least a dozen such tragedies being recorded, if not more. However, that has never stopped youngsters to take risks at precipices of hills and under waterfalls to take selfies and bathe in the monsoon glory.
However, this year, all these majestic places have been left to themselves.
There’s no one to admire their beauty as the Corona Pandemic has clamped this fascinating part of life too, in its cruel claws. The law enforcing authorities of various districts have banned visits to any of these places to clamp down on crowds as a safety precaution to curtail spread of the deadly virus. And it’s just not an official order that the police has scripted on paper; they are implementing it with sternness. On the last weekend of June, 50 revellers were booked by the Paud Police.
Although the police had put up barricades at Male village, to ban commuters going for picnics and only permit those who had e-passes, many people took unconventional routes to get to the Tamhini Ghat and Mulshi Dam. All those who visited were later booked by the police.
Every monsoon season, warnings are put up by the local authorities prohibiting swimming or entering the waters as the undercurrent is unpredictable. However, never have these banks of the backwaters of dams or waterfall junctions been prevented from entering them. In an unprecedented move, such outings as well as treks through the Sahyadri hills have been banned this year and all such exciting weekends have come to a grinding halt. It is easy for the police to take such a stern action, as most of the revellers are college students. With all educational institutions shut down, several lakhs of students who come from across the country are back to their homes. Hence, the police have to contain only the local crowd. And of course, the fear of the pandemic would inhibit many locals too to visit such public places.
The breathtaking beauty of the Western Ghats can now be enjoyed through the innumerable videos and enchanting photographs uploaded by hundreds of youngsters.
As I went through a series of them, I realised, how we had taken everything of Mother Earth for granted. I had taken for granted even the waterfalls that stream down a series of mountains as you travel through the Pune-Mumbai Expressway during the rains.
It seemed as if this Nature’s Splendour is our birthright and we must have it! Now, as I crave to get that oxygen oozing through the wet pathways, you realise that Mother Nature may be available, free of cost, but she can get inaccessible too.
She is teaching us all a hard lesson, that without and earthquake or tsunami kind of a jolt, she can quietly sent micro viruses to put you in place.
One only hopes that we learn our lessons from being brazen with nature. That, when we can get back to these little oasis of happiness and joy, we express decency and care to Mother Nature by not littering the surroundings with plastic and not watching her beauty with crass addiction and noise pollution.
More so, we hope that the powers that be ensure they do not destroy nature in the name of progress and development – Corona pandemic has shown that Mother Earth can be nasty to those who indiscriminately destroy her.
For this, I still lament that the Madhav Gadgil Report on the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats has been mocked at by successive governments!
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
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