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Toilet trial for tourists

"This place is so beautiful. It just needs a little sprucing up — say, regular broom jobs, a few eateries, drinking water kiosks and restrooms, and maybe, a lodge."
Elenita O. de Asa, principal of Mary Immaculate in Manila (above left), at Dassam Falls in Ranchi on Tuesday

Dassam Falls, the cascade of Kanchi River off NH-33, scores a perfect ten for its unparalleled natural beauty — the 144ft plunge from Ranchi plateau, the ten gushing vertical streamlets that earn it its sobriquet and the ceaseless sound of music it creates. And yet, the wonderful waterfall leaves many visitors — both from far and near — with unpleasant memories because of acute dearth of basic amenities.

A couple of days after Jharkhand High Court pulled up the state government and the tourism secretary for the abysmal infrastructure at various hot spots, categorically mentioning Dassam, The Telegraph did a recce of the falls and heard what visitors had to say.

Dassam Falls, an hour’s drive from Ranchi

The cascade is born of Kanchi River, a tributary of Subernarekha

Ten streamlets of the river dive 144ft from Ranchi plateau to form the falls

“Magnificent! This is one of the most beautiful falls I have seen in my life. Hear that gurgling sound… it almost feels like heaven!” said Elenita O. de Asa, the principal of Mary Immaculate, Manila.

This is Elenita’s maiden trip to India. She is touring the country with a group of nuns from the Philippines capital. “This place is so beautiful. It just needs a little sprucing up — say, regular broom jobs, a few eateries, drinking water kiosks and restrooms, and maybe, a lodge. If God so wills, I would love to come back here again and again,” she added.

The Dassam draws an annual footfall of 30,000. An unfair contrast perhaps in terms of natural splendour and magnitude, but the Niagara Falls that straddles the international border between Canada and the US attracts a minimum of 12 million tourists every year.

Bangalore resident Bala Maiya, who visited the waterfall on Tuesday with three friends, said footfall at Dassam could increase manifold if the Jharkhand government paid more attention to tourist amenities.

“Had such natural beauty existed in Bangalore, we would have showcased it for the entire world. But here, no one is interested. Tourism, it seems, is not at all on government agenda,” he said.

Bala recalled having seen a more picturesque Dassam some 20 years ago. The area has developed, but not in the right direction. Tourists like us would want a proper bus service to the falls, eateries and separate restrooms for men and women among other things,” he said.

Restrooms for men, women on both sides of the falls

Eateries, water kiosks

Accommodation, at least one private lodge

Proper seating arrangements, maybe garden chairs with umbrellas at viewing galleries

Guard rails at least 4ft high

Policing to ‘discipline’ visitors, many jump into the waters

Visible warning signs in Hindi, English

A maintenance committee for upkeep

Quite like the jaw-dropping Niagara, the delightful Dassam divides the two districts of Ranchi (on the east) and Khunti (on the west).

The eastern side is conspicuously devoid of tourist facilities. Let alone eateries and accommodation, there are no public toilets or drinking water taps in the area. A few makeshift shops set up by local villagers help visitors cope with hunger pangs.

On the western side, two ill-equipped buildings rarely pass muster as guesthouse and restroom. The toilets have no doors and often no water.

The only commendable tourist infrastructure at the site is a flight of non-skid stairs that lead to various viewpoints. But then, the galleries have very low and insecure guard rails. No less than 20 lives have been lost in 13 years at the falls.

Seating arrangements include a couple of concrete benches. But, there is no shed to protect visitors from rain and sun.

Abraham Horo, a veteran from Pansakam village near Dassam Falls, summed up the problems.

“The government never appointed a caretaker for upkeep of infrastructure. The guesthouse is a ghost house. Toilets are useless. People keep drowning because there is no proper safety mechanism. You can never sell such a place.”

Are the tourism bosses listening?

(From top) A government-sponsored accommodation that looks haunted; a toilet with no doors; and garbage along a stairway mar the beauty of the tourist spot. Pictures by Prashant Mitra

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