In the aftermath of the Kurangani forest fire accident in Theni in March, the Tamil Nadu government has banned trekking in the state for two months every year. The rules were formulated based on an expert committee report submitted on the accident.
According to news reports, the state government has notified the Tamil Nadu Forest and Wildlife Areas (Regulation of Trekking) Rules, 2018, banning trekking in Tamil Nadu between February 15 and April 15, when the occurrence of forest fires is high. According to ‘Spatial and temporal analysis of decadal forest fire data (2006-2015)’ released by the TN Forest department, forest fires start in January, increase in February and reach its highest point during March. Nearly 48% of forest fires in Tamil Nadu were reported during March and February, which together saw about 72% of the total number of forest fires in the state. The number of incidents decreases during April and gradually phases out as southwest monsoon sets in.
Other rules regarding trekking in TN
The notified rules also make it mandatory to obtain relevant permission from forest department officers before setting out on a trek to forests in Tamil Nadu. Violating the rule would be considered as trespassing and the persons would be liable for prosecution accordingly. The rules also stipulate trekking timings from 6 am to 5 pm.
The rules also specify that trekking should only follow a linear route and the trekkers should not divert from the permitted route. Individuals below the age of 10 and pregnant women will not be allowed to go trekking.
At least one guide and a local forest guard or watch should be present with every trekking group, according to the newly notified rules, and each group must have a minimum of five and a maximum of 15 persons. Trekkers going on tough routes must produce a fitness certificate from a certified doctor.
The Tamil Nadu government, after the Theni forest fire, had appointed Revenue and Disaster Management Principal Secretary Atulya Misra to conduct a probe into the incident and submit a report. The 125-page report submitted by Misra had blamed field-level officers for being totally unaware of the number of trekkers who were trapped inside the forest when the fire broke out. His report had also highlighted certain lapses on the part of the forest department officers.