Province 2 sees rise in drowning incidentsAs many as 285 cases of death by drowning were reported in the province in the last 27 months.
Two hundred and eighty five cases of death by drowning were reported in eight districts of Province 2 in the past 27 months, according to the data of the Provincial Police Office in Janakpur.
The majority of the fatalities in the province were children, the data showed. As many as 72 children under five years of age and 108 children aged five to 18 years drowned in the last 27 months.
On June 11, a group of eight children—five girls and three boys—between 10 and 14 years had taken their cattle out for grazing in Mukhiyapatti Musharniya Rural Municipality, Dhanusha. As the temperature rose during the day, the group decided to swim in a newly dug pond to cool themselves. All of them took a plunge together, but only three boys came out alive.
The five girls—Lakshiminiya Yadav, 12, Chandrakumari Bhagat, 10, Manju Purbe, 13, Chandani Thakur, 12, and Lalita Sahani, 12—died by drowning.
“My granddaughter will never return due to the negligence of the individual who dug the pond up to 10 feet and left it open,” said Ram Lakshyan Yadav, Lakshiminiya’s grandfather.
Hulas Yadav, a resident of Mukhiyapatti Musharniya Rural Municipality, had dug the pond for fish keeping.
“But the pond was left unused and filled with rainwater. The children were not aware of the depth of the pond and they stepped into it. They got trapped and died,” said Ram Lakshyan.
Incidents of drowning in boring pits are a common occurrence in the province.
“Though many children lose their lives to drowning every year, such incidents are not taken seriously in Tarai,” said Shekh Adalat, a former police inspector of Rautahat. “It is necessary to make the public aware of how to remain safe from drowning and keep their children away from ponds and water bodies.”
According to the data of the Provincial Police Office, 79 cases of death by drowning have been reported in the province since the start of the current fiscal year.
“Of these deaths, 52 victims were children,” said Krishna Prasai, superintendent of police, also the spokesperson of the Provincial Police Office in Janakpur.
In the last fiscal year, 120 cases of drowning were reported in Province 2.
“While constructing roads in the rural areas, the contractors dig pits along the road to elevate the land surface. These pits are filled with rainwater in the monsoon, as the contractors do not bury such pits. Many children drown in such rain-filled pits,” said Shyam Narayan Mishra, an engineer who earlier worked at the Postal Highway Road Project. “It is clearly mentioned in the project agreement that the pits created while constructing roads should be buried by the contractors. But most contractors do not fill up the pits, causing human casualties every year.”
As per the data available at the Provincial Police Office, 86 people drowned in rain-filled pits, ponds, streams and rivers in Province 2 in the fiscal year 2019/20. Fifty-seven of the victims were children.
Incidents of drowning increased in the last fiscal year 2020/21. As many as 120 people drowned in eight districts of Province 2 last year. According to the Provincial Police Office, 44 victims drowned in ponds, 23 in rain-filled pits and 53 others in rivers and streams.
“Most of the drowning incidents occur in the rainy season,” said SP Prasain. “Many children drown in rain-filled pits during the monsoon. The Department of Roads or the local units should either fill such pits or build a fence around them,” said SP Prasain.
According to him, the provincial natural disaster management committee and its subordinate units should regularly monitor road-side pits and culverts.
Civil society leaders and the general public have repeatedly demanded the provincial government take concrete steps to minimise incidents of drowning in Province 2.
“The provincial government has allocated a large chunk of its budget for the beautification of ponds and lakes. Security measures should also be included to minimise drowning incidents while beautifying the water bodies,” said Nabal Kishwor Karna, a resident of Janakpur. “The government should also focus on filling up roadside pits.”According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide, accounting for seven percent of all injury-related deaths. As per the WHO estimates, nearly 236,000 people died by drowning in 2019.