HASSAN: Western Ghats with its dense evergreen forests is a certainly a trekkers' paradise. Considered to be one of the eco-sensitive zones of the country, parts of Western Ghats in Sakleshpur taluk in Hassan district, Puttur, Sulia and Uppinangadi taluks of Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts are frequented by a large number of adventurous people.
Nonetheless, trekking in Western Ghats is not for the faint-hearted as danger lurks at every step, especially during the monsoon.
The missing of 14 engineers from Chennai, who went on an expedition to Sakleshpur Hills, is not the first incident of its kind. In the last 15 years, four people lost their lives and over 70 trekkers went missing, later traced by the police with the help of locals in the area. Lack of geographical knowledge and absence of precautionary measures pave the way for tragedies.
Trekkers prefer to enter the forests adjacent to Sakleshpur taluk as there are several ways to enter the forests immediately after they get down from their vehicles.
This adventure gained prominence in the past 15 years after techies got into it through clubs or agencies based in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
However, many of these clubs or agencies arrange trekking trips without proper guidance and knowledge about the area. Many do not obtain prior permission from authorities as well. It has also been observed that many of these agencies collect exorbitant charges.
It may be recalled that the police and forest officials had recovered the skeletons of three engineers — Bhaskar Babu, Vasanthkumar and Tejajurthy of Bangalore — who had gone missing near Anegudda while trekking on May 28, 2006. They got struck while crossing a river and drowned. The police recovered the skeletons of trio hanging from a trees in the forest after eight months of the incident.
In another incident, B M Navin Kumar from BMS College had drowned near Kabbinale forest while trekking with 13 others from Bangalore on May 2, 2012.
Police also traced one techie from Tata Motors, Bangalore, who went missing while trekking in Western Ghats following the leads he provided by tying pieces of his cloths to trees, five years ago.
It should be noted that the local police along with the Navy officials took six months to trace a pilot and a helicopter that crashed in Agnigudda forest.
Umesh Gowda, an environmentalist, alleged that a nexus between Forest Department officials and trekking agencies leads to such tragedies. He claimed that the forest officials have failed to implement the Forests Act. They do not book trekkers who trespass into the reserve forests.
DCF Ganesh Bhat was not available for comments.