40 ‘safe’ routes to be opened for trekking in TN by July-end

This comes six years after the 2018 Kurangani hills forest fire which led to the death of 23 trekkers.
However, the forest department has now decided to allow trekking and prepared an atlas containing 40 trek routes.
However, the forest department has now decided to allow trekking and prepared an atlas containing 40 trek routes.(Photo | File photo)

CHENNAI: Trekking enthusiasts may soon get a taste of the beautiful natural landscapes of Tamil Nadu as the government is all set to open 40 ‘safe’ trekking routes falling in 15 forest divisions for public bookings by July end, if all goes according to plan.

This comes six years after the 2018 Kurangani hills forest fire which led to the death of 23 trekkers. After the tragedy, the government had shut down all the trekking routes. Though trekking rules were subsequently notified, the activity never took off partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the forest department has now decided to allow trekking and prepared an atlas containing 40 trek routes. It is proposed to establish basic facilities on all the routes at a cost of Rs 4 crore. TNIE has accessed the list of the approved trails, which are a mix of easy, moderate and tough treks.

For example, Parsonsvally-Mukurthi hut trek in Nilgiris, Topslip-Pandaravarai in Pollachi, Sembukarai-Perumalmudi in Coimbatore and Vattakanal-Vellagavi in Kodaikanal are some of the high-octane adventure treks involving steep climbs and passes through stunning landscapes.

Chief Wildlife Warden Srinivas R Reddy told TNIE, “We have identified 119 trekking routes. In the first phase, 40 routes will be opened. We are currently working on various other modalities.”

Environment secretary Supriya Sahu said over 400 guides, all local tribes, have been roped-in and necessary training was being given. “All the bookings will be routed through Tamil Nadu Wilderness Experiences Corporation (TNWEC), which will shortly be renamed as Tamil Nadu Nature Heritage Corporation. Bulk of the revenue will go to eco-development committees (EDCs).

The idea is to create a local economy and improve the standard of living of tribes and traditional artisans in these remote areas.” Sahu said jurisdictional district forest officers have been instructed to send teams along with guides to take videos and photos of approved trek routes for familiarisation before the bookings are open.

Vismiju Viswanathan, TNWEC officer on special duty, told TNIE that work on the portal, training and documentation of trails are going simultaneously. “We hope to launch the portal by July end.”

He said there are plans to tie-up with professional trekking organisations that will only complement the department’s efforts.

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