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Illegal trekking continuing in Kurangani: Locals

In a bid to ensure forest conservation and to avoid any risk of loss, many local people in Bodi of Theni district have appealed to the Forest personnel to strictly implement ban on trekking, which remains in effect in Kurangani hills, which falls under Bodi Range and Top Station.

Illegal trekking continuing in Kurangani: Locals
Representative image


The trekking ban, which is implemented by the Theni Forest Division, comes into effect from February 15 owing to possibility of wildfire during the summer. For many, March 2018 was the harsh reminder of wildfire that proved fatal, killing 23 trekkers.

In the wake of the incident, tourists were restricted from entering the Kurangani hills. But, ban on trekking was violated as tourists had been let on through Kurangani hills and citing this, the local people and several nature enthusiasts wondered whether wildlife authorities from the neighbouring Kerala had been involved in.

They alleged that tourists still continue trekking on the prohibited hill route, mostly from Suryanelli in Idukki district. It seemed an organised team activity as tourists were charged Rs 2,000 each under the banner of ‘Kolukkumalai Tourism’ in Kerala, but largely a clandestine effort.

Without proper care, those accessing the prohibited areas in violation tend to risk their lives in the form of taking selfies mostly on weekends and such areas were littered with empty liquor bottles and cigarette butts.

Such a scenario would certainly harm the environment in forest. Hence, many of the locals urged the authorities concerned to set up check post at Kolukkumalai along Tamil Nadu-Kerala border so as to heighten surveillance and prevent any illegal trekking and it could also help in preventing any risk to humans.

Normally, man-made causes were mostly behind fire in forest areas, but in very rare cases friction created by rubbing pieces of wood could spark fire naturally. Many deliberately set fire to some forest areas for fresh and green grass shoots for their cattle to graze. Moreover, impacts of cigarette litter could also cause wildfire, sources said.

Hence, nature enthusiasts stressed the need for strict implementation of Section 21-D of Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882, primarily aimed at preventing trespassing and protecting the forest.

Theni District Forest Officer S Gowtham, when contacted, denied any trekking on the 11.4 km stretch on the prohibited hill area, and said the department is taking all efforts to prevent any illegal trekking. The local jeep operators in Suryanelli panchayat of  Idukki in Kerala, in association with the District Tourism Promotion Council, Idukki, had been mobilising tourists and taking route through private estate road in Kolukkumalai, which is 200 metres away from the inter-state boundary, to a point to view sunrise.

Considering the risk factors as the viewpoint is too steep and fire is only a secondary risk factor, letters were forwarded months ago to counterparts in Kerala through Theni Forest Department and the District Administration as well, to suspend such operations.

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