The Forest department has opened two special offices at Sabarimala — one at Pampa and the other at the Sannidhanam — to control and co-ordinate various activities of the department and to ensure quick response as and when needed during the ongoing annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season.

According to G. Prasad, Assistant Conservator of Forests on special duty, each unit has got a staff strength of 16, which includes a Range Officer, a section officer, and 14 beat forest officers. The two special units are being controlled by the Assistant Conservator of Forests with office at Cheriyanavattom.

Mr. Prasad said there would be thorough and routine search in the fringe forest areas to check illegal hiding of tobacco, narcotic and alcoholic items, plastic materials, etc, in the forest areas.

Collection of fire wood from forest areas and dumping of waste inside the forests would be checked and controlled by these units.

He said quality control of food and drinking water and regulation of price of various food articles at the shops run by Eco Development Committees would be a key task of the control room staff. Pilgrims can avail quality food at reasonable prices at all EDC shops. Strict monitoring of the functioning of various EDC shops would be ensured by the control room staff on a daily basis, he said.

Mr. Prasad said the Forest control room at Sabarimala would ensure protection of wild animals, removal of dangerous trees and various other pilgrimage assistance activities. The Field Director (Project Tiger) in Kottayam is the State Coordinator for all the control room activities.

The Forest Control Room staff will also monitor the cleaning drive on the forest path leading to Sabarimala with the help of the Government staff on duty and the Sabarimala Sanitation Society workers.

Mr. Prasad said the office-cum-information centre of the Forest control room has been set up near devaswom guard station at Pamba. Another unit for receiving complaints from pilgrims on the traditional path too has been set up at Cheriyanavattom.

He said perambulation on the traditional path and in and around Pamba, U-turn, etc, has also been insisted and experts in snake catching with equipments are being posted at both the units.

Mr Prasad said a Help Desk cum Striker station has been set up at Neelimala to assist the pilgrims and for serving as a striker force of the Forest department to curtail illegal activities and for wild animal combat.

Three elephant squads, headed by the Forest Veterinary Officer in Konni, are camping at Pampa, Sannidhanam and Pullupara. They have been provided with specially equipped vehicle to ply on the Plapally-Pampa route and men are deployed with equipments at various other points, he said.

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