KOCHI: Forest officials of Vazhachal have warned tourists especially those from Kochi, to care for Nature or pay fines.
The department is giving this message to visitors to the Vazhachal Forest division in unequivocal terms.
The officials were forced to act tough as the environmental crisis created by the visitors started affecting the ecology of the region known for the scintillating waterfalls of Athirapally and Vazhachal. Burgeoning heaps of plastic refuse from the visitors are posing serious threat to the environment and wildlife population.
Last year, 8.4 lakh tourists visited the area and around 70 per cent of the tourists came from Kochi, said A. Ranjan, Divisional Forest Officer, Vazhachal.
The increase in the number of visitors has left some undesirable results like the increase in the quantity of plastic refuse.
The department has slapped a complete ban on use of plastic in the area, he said. Carrying of plastic bags has been banned since April. The visitors are encouraged to use paper bags in place of plastic bags.
Each vehicle would be checked at the ticket counter at the gate and Vazhachal check post. Those found violating the ban order will be fined Rs. 1,000. A buyback scheme for plastic bottles has also been introduced, he said.
Food waste dumped by tourists was another area of concern. The department has started providing plastic buckets for tourists to bring back the refuse to the check point.
A verification system for plastic materials carried by the tourists is a recent move by the department for protecting the environment.
Every vehicle will be checked at Vazhachal and Malakkappara check posts for plastic utensils and the details will be entered in a verification slip.
The vehicles will be rechecked at the exit points and entry points and the slips will be verified to ensure that nothing is left behind in the forest. Defaulters will be fined a sum of Rs. 1,000, Mr. Ranjan said.