KOCHI: Unravelling the hidden mysteries of nature and leaving a trail to hitherto unexplored regions have always been a passion for mankind. The tribe of trekkers and explorers keeps growing. So are those with an inclination to sidestep the law.The Forest Department is set to tighten the noose around illegal and unauthorised trekkers and agencies taking tourists for a ride in the guise of trekking. Forest Minister K Raju said the department has noted there has been a big spurt in the number of adventure portals, trekking clubs and other groups which come up with amazing offers to cash in on the demand for trekking. A majority of such agencies make the trekking offers through various media, including social media, without taking the mandatory permission from the authorities concerned.
“Nor do they have proper preparation and training, which ultimately push trekkers into legal tangles with enforcement agencies, including the police and the forest department,” the minister said. Rajesh Ravindran, Chief Conservator of Forests, Central Circle, said: “A good number of drowning deaths in major tourist destinations were mainly due to the overenthusiasm of the tourists, who failed to heed the advice of the forest officers and breach the boundary of the safety zones.
Many people missing cases relating to those who went trekking without permission would come to notice a few hours after they are lost in dangerous terrain, most often in the evening. That makes rescue operation difficult.” For instance, night traffic through the Vazhachal-Malakkappara stretch is banned after 6 pm. However, some of the tourists who visit regions inside the reserve forest in daytime, do not come back before nightfall.“This would make things equally unsafe for tourists and wild animals, especially wild elephants that stroll along the forest path at night,” said Rajesh.The forest regions in Mannarkad in Palakkad, parts of Wayanad, Idukki and Kottayam are areas where the mushrooming trekking groups take tourists for adventure trips.
Major trekking destinations in Kerala
Rajamalai / Eravikulam National Park
Top Station near Munnar
Dhoni Hills, Palakkad
Vellari Mala, Kozhikode
Chembra Peak, Wayanad
Dos and Don’ts
If trekking is offered into forests, ensure the region is open for trekking
Normally, the Forest Department will not give sanction to trekking agencies to conduct trips inside forest areas where tourism is disallowed
Resort groups in some forest areas are offering night jungle safaris on jeeps. A majority of such programmes have no permission form the authorities
Apart from endangering the lives of trekkers, encroachment into forest areas also attract legal cases under various provisions of the Kerala Forest Act and the Wildlife Protection Act
Holding a safari inside the forest without the permission of forest officers is a punishable offence