There has been a stark increase of rogue trekking in Karnataka. The interest among people in exploring the natural habitat is high. Trekking is a responsible recreational activity. But what happens when such outdoor pursuits are chased recklessly with little regard for forest laws.
The smoky mountain picture is not a canvas art but a recent forest fire at Kumara Parvatha. The entire meadow of ‘Battara-Mane‘ were seen engulfed in a raging fire on this Christmas weekend. Trekkers shared worrying posts on social media on the fate of Kumara Parvatha, a popular trekking destination in Karnataka. “Bad news guys, trekking to K.P may also get banned,” VijayKumar wrote in his post in a Trekking Group on Facebook.
The fire at Kumara Parvatha could be the making of a trekker disposing of a bud of burning cigarette improperly. Or it may just be a natural occurrence during the hot season. But what has been done cannot be undone. The meadows will not regenerate here for an indefinitely protracted time. The future of Kumara Parvatha trek looks uncertain, at least for the moment.
Moving to the other trails and the trend is worrying. Kudremukh, Kodachadri, Thadiyandamol, Kuntibetta, Mullayanagiri, Kabbaladurga, Antaragange, Savanadurga and Makalidurga are most popular for unauthorized day and night treks. These treks are run mostly without permission from The Forest Department.
Evading the authorities and rule breaking is the new high for some thrill-seeking tourists. Many adventure clubs lure corporate professionals with attractive trek packages. They bring big groups and are seen violating the rules. Many illegal homestays have been set up to help trekkers sneak into the forested trail with the help of locals.
Many of these treks run under the purview of Restricted Forest area manned by State Forest Department. Obtaining a permit from the District Forest Officer is considered tedious. Forest Guidelines makes it mandatory for trekking groups to register. A Forest Guard has to accompany the trekking party. There is a restriction in the number of people who can enter the forest trail. The number of people allowed depends upon the sensitivity of the eco-zone.
While this helps the Forest Rangers to ensure the safety of the group, many trekkers are adverse to the idea of being monitored. Some of them come on treks with a picnic/party mindset. This can be validated with a number of liquor bottles and non-biodegradable waste found around the campsite and the trail.
A few cases of irresponsible, guerilla-like trekking has led to unfortunate incidents. Death and trekkers reporting missing on the trail have created a strong case for the authorities to restrict trekking. There has been an increase presence of the local police and Forest Guards patrolling many such trails. Those found violating are severely fined and sent back.
So what can you do to promote responsible trekking in Karnataka?
- Trekking is a recreational, educational and conservation-oriented outdoor activity. If you are not doing it responsibly then you are not deemed fit to be called a ‘Trekker‘.
- Adhere to the Trekking Guidelines laid by the Forest Authority. Understand that rules are there to ensure your safety and preserving the sensitive eco-system.
- Do a background check of Guided Trekking Agencies offering you treks. Do they have a sound reputation in conducting responsible trekking and waste management practices? Do they liaison with The Forest Department and adhere to the guidelines?
- Take full responsibility of bringing your waste back to your city. Follow “leave no trace” policy. There is no-one who is going to pick up the waste but you.
- Most of the trails in Karnataka are highly susceptible to fire. It is criminal smoking or setting bonfire. Your one error in judgement can trigger a forest fire.
- Report incidents of wrongdoing seen to the Forest Officer. If you come across groups or people who are littering around, confront them. If nothing, make a video, take a few pictures and make it viral on the social media. The Trekking Fraternity will take such people to task.
If you have any suggestions or views on the said matter, bring it on the comment section.
Lead Picture, Courtesy, Prashant D. (Tripadvisor Profile)