Mirsarai upazila in Chattogram is already a sought after place for tourists. It boasts natural waterfalls in at least 10 different spots. Everyday, hundreds of tourists from across the country come to the upazila to visit the waterfalls.
Waterfalls in the upazila include Khayachhara, Napittachhara, Sahasradhara, Rupasi, Baoachhara, Boalia, Harinakunda, Mahamaiya, Sonaichharai and Kamaldaha. Of them, there are 12 that fall on the hills at the Khayachhara spot alone.
However, an increasing number of accidents at the waterfalls over the last couple of years are starting to make tourists feel unsafe.
Since 2017, at least eight tourists were reportedly killed and some 50 were injured in different accidents at the falls, said sources.
The latest accident occurred in Khayachhara falls on September 4. Fayez Ahmed, a 39-year-old tourist from Feni, died on the spot after falling down the top of the falls. It took fire service personnel around six hours to recover his body.
In another incident on July 12, a group of 15 tourists got stranded in Boalia falls. They were finally rescued by fire service personnel after four hours.
The Khayachhara falls is a hotspot for such incidents. On April 2 last year, tourist Ashraf Hossain died after falling down its slopes, with another three dying there throughout the year.
"I have recently visited the Khayachhara falls. There are 12 falls in the slope of the hills in that spot, but the slopes are too straight to climb up," said Md Abbas, a graduate from Department of Mass Communication and Journalism of Chittagong University. "Many tourists slip on their way up or down as there are no staircases."
In Napittachhara and Rupasi falls, two tourists died in 2018, while one died in Napittachhara in 2017.
Concerned citizens and experts identified a few reasons behind the accidents. Firstly, they blamed tourists and their careless attitude regarding safety. Secondly, they said there is no official safety guideline for tourists from the government which is a crucial factor behind these accidents.
Md Tanvir Ahmed, station officer of Mirsarai Fire Service, said they reported 10 accidents in the last three years in different falls in the upazila. "Many tourists climb up the dangerously steep slopes, almost inviting accidents in some cases," he said.
Concerned tourist Md Abbas said, "There is no official guideline or instructions from the government for tourists' safety. We hire local guides, but they are not well-trained. The roads towards the falls are not in good shape, showing a clear sign of government's negligence."
Contacted, Jasim Uddin, a former member of Chattogram District Red Crescent Society and president of Mirsarai Education Society, said the waterfalls in Mirsarai could be the most sought after place for tourists if the government took a proper plan to develop the spots.
"The roads leading up to the falls are battered, there is no guideline, no staircase, not even sitting arrangements at the spots," he said. "If steps are taken to address the issues, the number of accidents would decrease and more tourists would want to visit the area."
He also said number of accidents could be decreased to an extant if staircases are built and trained guides could be employed.
Asked, Ilias Hossain, deputy commissioner of Chattogram, said, "As the government has not taken over the spots, we do not encourage anybody to visit the falls. But if someone does want to visit, they have to to take responsibility of their own safety."
However, if interested tourists contact the Mirsarai administration before visiting the falls, they can arrange a guided tour for them. "I have instructed the UNO to arrange proper safety for tourists if they visit the spots with permission," the DC said.