As Isha Foundation prepares to celebrate Maha Shivaratri on Monday and Tuesday in which President Ram Nath Kovind will also participate, the Coimbatore District Forest Officer has outlined various precautions that it should undertake before the event begins. It also warned that it will not be responsible for any loss of life or property during its event. The department’s warning comes at a time when wild animals are known to migrate and where forest fires are frequent. The Maha Shivaratri event is set to take place in the foothills of Velliangiri hills, where the Foundation is located.
The Forest Department’s letter begins by stating that the Boluvampatty reserve forest and the areas around it are undergoing a phase of severe drought. “The elephants which walk on the Siruvani-Marudhamalai route are going in search of water from one place to another in the forest region. During this movement, elephants these days are entering the villages and agricultural lands and causing damages to human lives and property there. It is in this situation that the Isha organisation has decided to hold an event on Monday and Tuesday, in which lakhs of people are expected to descend to a place very close to the reserve forest boundary,” the letter reads.
The 10-point precaution list put forth by the Forest Department is aimed at protecting people from wild animals and vice versa. Among the precautions listed are traffic restrictions and diversions for people arriving at the venue, prohibition to burst crackers, bright lights, loudspeakers and anything that could cause fire accidents and restriction to the attendees from entering the Boluvampatty reserve forest. The letter also directs Isha Foundation to make sure that the polythene bags, remains of food items and other garbage do not breach the forest area.
The department also instructs Isha Foundation to set up a watch tower and deploy four persons to monitor the movement of elephants in the area and to put up temporary solar-powered fence along the periphery of the forest.
“On days of the event, in case the wild animals cause damage to the lives or properties of those who come to attend the event, the Forest department will not bear responsibility or provide compensation for such loss,” concluded the letter.
Speaking to TNM about the letter, a forest officer from the Coimbatore district said that this was issued in order to warn the organisers. “This is a season of animal migration and forest fires. So we issue precautions to anybody and everybody who seek our permission to conduct events near forest areas,” he said, adding that the Forest Department does not handle complaints regarding the violations of the norms.
In May 2017, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) filed an affidavit in the National Green Tribunal stating that the Maha Shivaratri celebrations conducted by the organisation that year exceed the noise limits in all the locations. The 2017 celebrations was noteworthy since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at the event and inugurated a 112-feet tall head bust of Lord Shiva, also known as Aadhi Yogi. The TNPCB affidavit stated that the limits for noise in that region are 55 dB(A) during day time (6 am to 10 pm) and 45 dB(A) during night time (10 pm to 6 am) and that the noise levels were as high as 81 dB in that region. This was a clear violation of the provisions of Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, the affidavit said.