|The dry Dasam Falls, about 40km from the state capital on the Ranchi-Tata National Highway 23, on Tuesday. (Above) The cascading waterfall last year. Pictures by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, April 28: A cruel sun is draining life out of Ranchi’s cascading waterfalls.
The summer torment on the picturesque Dasam, Hundru, Jonha and Sita falls began as early as mid-March. The temperature then was a modest 35°C compared to a blazing 42°C on April 21. The capital has been simmering ever since with the mercury setting a grim record by touching the 40°C mark at least twice in the past couple of weeks.
The scorching heat has already arrested the 144ft descent of the famous Dasam Falls, which is about 40km from Ranchi and is one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the state.
The Jonha (140ft), Sita (114ft) and Hirni (120ft) have also dried up while the highest and undoubtedly most magnificent waterfall in the state — Hundru at 320ft — has been reduced to a trickle. Not just the waterfalls, streams and rivulets that meander through the dark, dense forests and are perennial sources of water are also drying up.
Village Pansakam is closest to Dasam. It’s headman, Mangra Munda, said every summer the flow of water reduced, but the falls had never dried up as early as March-April. “For the past few years, the falls have been drying up, but not before May,” he said.
Munda, who also heads a village committee that has made forays into the hospitality sector to shore up income, believed the heat wave-like conditions was taking a toll on Pansakam and other forest villages in more ways than one.
Besides drying up sources of water, the soaring temperature has also hit tourism hard. According to official estimates, 250-300 parties of holidaymakers troop to Dasam and Hundru every April. “This year the number is a miserable 10 — or maybe 15,” said a state tourism department employee, requesting anonymity.
The Hundru, Jonha and Sita falls, situated within a 30km radius from the state capital on Ranchi-Purulia highway, are certainly feast for the eyes. But, more importantly, they ensure survival of clusters of cheap food joints that cash in on the steady tourist influx till May-end.
“We prepare our delicacies and wait for tourists. But almost everyday, the food is wasted,” said Rajesh Oraon, who owns a stall by the Dasam.
On the alarming phenomenon surrounding waterfalls, environmentalist Nitish Priyadarshi said the erratic climatic changes were taking a toll.
The Dasam is linked to Kanchi, a tributary of river Swarnarekha, while Sita and Jonha have their sources in Gautamdhara. Hundru, too, is linked to Swarnarekha. “When the rivers are losing water fast, it is not surprising that falls will dry up. All that we can do is wait for monsoon.”
And, if the weathermen are to be believed, the season of rain is still far away.