Caution! No trespassing into forests

A view of Vellingiri Hills.

A view of Vellingiri Hills.  

Move afoot to set up a permanent check-post at Palamalai downhill

The death of a 44-year-old woman from Ganapathy in an elephant attack on January 19, when she and seven others trespassed into the forest near Palamalai for trekking without permission from the Forest Department, highlights the risks and illegality involved in such violations.

According to Forest Department officials, the group was warned twice earlier while trekking in forest areas, including a stretch from Mangarai to Anaikatti.

Following the incident, officials have clarified that there are only five trekking routes approved by the department in Coimbatore namely Thadagam to Melmudi Ranganathar Temple, Poondi Temple to Vellingiri hill shrine, Palamalai to Melmudi Ranganathar Temple, Kallar to Burliar via road, and Odanthurai to Kunjappanai.

According to Additional Principal Conservator of Forests Debasis Jana, (Chief Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle), these places were approved for trekking by the Chief Wildlife Warden.

District Forest Officer D. Venkatesh said that trekking on these routes was allowed only when aspirants apply in advance, that too with certain restrictions considering the safety of the persons and protection of the ecosystem.

“People, who get permission for trekking will be assisted by frontline staff of the department or local tribesmen who know the forest terrain well,” he said.

Though permission was not required for trekking along highways passing through forest areas, the department has the discretion to impose restrictions in situations when movement of wild animals is high or during dry months when forests are prone to catch fire.

This restriction applies to Kallar to Burlier stretch where trekking is not allowed when movement of animals is high.

According to Mr. Venkatesh, the department has banned trekking in forest for a three month period between February 15 to April 15. “Other than these three months, the department can also halt trekking activities on the designated routes during extreme dry periods when movement of animals in search of water and fodder is high. Also, the activity is put on hold when the route is in forest fire prone condition,” he said.

Of the five designated trekking routes, devotees are permitted without collecting fee during festive seasons on routes such as Thadagam to Melmudi Ranganathar Temple and Poondi Temple to Vellingiri hill shrine.

Following the tragedy at Palamalai, the department is planning to keep a permanent check-post at the downhill.

However, manpower constraints pose a challenge.

Meanwhile, the department has stepped up surveillance based on specific information that certain resorts and home stays conduct jungle trails and treks in forest fringes without getting permission.

The department has also got information on some trekking groups, who organise trekking through WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages.

A coordinator of one of such groups told The Hindu that it was conducting trekking after getting permission from the department.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 6:24:50 AM |

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