Harshita (20) and Manasa (21), the two college students who drowned in the backwaters of the Manchanabele dam on Thursday evening, are hardly the first victims claimed by this scenic body, 40 km from the city.

The spot is a favourite with many Bangaloreans, particularly the young.

According to an official of the Cauvery Nirawari Nigam Limited (CNNL), more than 200 people have drowned in Manchanabele reservoir since 2006. The reservoir bed is a death trap with sudden fault-lines, large boulders as well as deep slush.

Magadi Police Inspector Ravikanth said that another youth drowned here less than two weeks ago. There had been a proposal to fence the area but it was never approved because of the high cost. The dam's authorities suspect that Harshita and Manasa, who were on a picnic with six other friends, were sucked in by the slush at a particularly tricky section of the 902-acre reservoir. While Harshita's body was recovered Thursday itself, Manasa's remains were found only on Friday morning.

Screams in vain

Six of the eight picnickers had ventured into the water but these two girls were suddenly sucked in. In his statement to the police, one of the survivors said they screamed for help but nobody turned up.

That is because there was nobody guarding the site on Thursday. In fact, there have been no guards on duty at the reservoir for the last one month.

“We have called for tenders from security agencies for guards,” said CNNL Assistant Executive Engineer D.B. Srinivas adding, “We need 12 guards, who will work in three shifts.” Meaning, each guard will be tasked with patrolling roughly 300 acres of land and water. There was a proposal around two years ago to develop the infrastructure at the dam as part of a “tourism belt” project that included Big Banyan Tree as well as Savanadurga Hill.

It was hoped that the dam would be made safer for visitors as part of the project. However, it still remains in the proposal stage though over 500 tourists throng the spot each weekend. “All we can do is put up signboards warning people of the perils. But this may not help much,” said Mr. Srinivas.

Inspector Ravikanth said he will convene a meeting with officials of the CNNL on Saturday to chart out a security system.

“We are considering setting up a police check post on the approach road,” he added.

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