As several waterfalls in Chittoor district have turned alive with copious rains since June, they have been attracting groups of youth and picnickers from several parts of Chennai and neighbouring Nellore district. The rains also led to a dense growth of forest cover, obscuring the regular jungle trails used by occasional visitors and forest personnel.
The recent incident of about 20 youth from Nellore ‘losing their way’ in the forest terrain atop the Sadasiva Kona hill near Puttur prompted the police and forest personnel to mount vigil at places frequented by picnickers.
Except for the Talakona tourist spot nestled on the western side of the Seshachalam hills, almost all the picnic spots in the district are left without surveillance. Batches of youth from Chennai keep venturing atop Sadasiva Kona, 25 km from Puttur, round the year. While some teams prefer to trek the steep hill, others use the dangerous jungle trail on tractors winding through boulders and ditches flanked by gorges. About half a dozen waterfalls too are nestled deep in the forests in Puttur, Narayanavanam, Nagalapuram, Varadaiahpalem, Yerpedu, KVB Puram and BN Kandriga mandals. During the rainy season, the Ubbalamadugu and Bhupateswara Kona waterfalls are known for casualties among youth, with over a dozen cases in recent years, mostly from Tamil Nadu.
The COVID-19 lockdown since March followed by rains resulted in thick growth of vegetation along the trails frequented by visitors. The paths have also turned slippery and vulnerable to fall of boulders. The gush of waters at the picnic spots is also considered forceful in recent years. It is observed that several youth who prefer to make night halts at these scenic locations often consume liquor, making them vulnerable to mishaps.
Spots not open yet
Forest Range Officer (Satyavedu) J. Prasada Rao told The Hindu that though the Ubbalamadugu waterfall (also known as Tada falls) is yet to open to tourists, several youth from T.N. and Nellore were entering the forest area. “Recently, a batch had ventured into the reserve forest. Our staff had to get them back immediately. Our personnel are deployed at all possible entry points to prevent youngsters from trespassing. The water flow is also turbulent now,” the official said.
Deputy SP (Puttur) D. Murali Dhar said that police personnel were asked to keep a vigil on the movement of youth towards the hillocks and waterfalls.