KOCHI: The last 12-18 months have seen a sharp increase in camping or trekking in Kerala forests, most of them without proper permission or licence, and people are taken into the forests by unauthorised guides who have little knowledge about the terrain.“Camping and trekking have suddenly become a fad and people are being lured through social media websites such as Facebook, resulting in our forests becoming crowded by trekkers and campers, mostly from south India,” one industry officer reckoned.
“If you remember, the houseboat industry in Kerala saw all and sundry entering the business in the 90s, and there were no guidelines or rules, till a tragedy struck. Similarly, we need proper rules for camping and trekking as well. The tragedy in Theni should be an eye-opener for the authorities,” said Derin Johnson of Kestrel Adventures, a recognised firm for trekking, camping etc.
Officers associated with trekking and camping industry vouch for a strict mechanism to keep a tab on unauthorised groups operating in the sector and insist on local guides accompanying the trekkers.
According to Derin Johnson of Kestrel Adventures, a recognised firm for trekking, camping etc, there should be a strict rule for online promotion of trekking and camping by unauthorised groups or individuals and only local guides who are experts on the terrain should be allowed to travel with the trekkers.Also, equipment used by the trekkers and campers such as tent material should have the approved quality.
“The ready-to-use tents sold by even well-known firms melt easily in a small fire,” he said.
Prabil MJ, CEO of Campper.com, South India’s only campsite aggregator, said there has been a spurt in interest for camping and trekking among the young and the old, but there has not been commensurate awareness programmes on the dos and don’ts in the area. “As a campsite aggregator, we have seen our numbers go up to over 500 campers per month in January, February compared to 350 in December,” he said.“We will soon issue a list of dos and don’ts for our clients. For instance, trekkers have no idea about the areas where you are allowed entry, those which are strictly prohibited,” Prabil said.