In the wake of a forest fire in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, which claimed the lives of 10 trekkers and injured several others, Kerala and Karnataka have temporarily banned trekking in forests.
The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority on Monday issued a statement confirming a temporary ban on trekking in the state. “All programmes, like trekking, in which members of public are taken inside forest areas will be suspended forthwith. No movement of members of public inside forest areas, without permission, will be allowed,” said the official circular. It also pointed out that flammable materials like matchbox, lighters and tobacco products will be confiscated.
Wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala will be reopened to the public only after Wildlife Wardens and Divisional Forest Officers ensured the safety of visitors. Anyone visiting the forest would have to listen to a presentation detailing how to prevent forest fires and rescue measures to be adopted. The department also added that fire lines would be strengthened and forest officials have been directed to be alert reported The Hindu. Fire lines are strips in forests, where vegetation is cut down in order to stop a possible fire from spreading beyond that area.
Meanwhile, the forest department in Karnataka followed suit by banning trekking until rain showers helped dampen the forest areas in the state. The department noted that several forest areas in the state are prone to forest fires and multiple fires have already been reported in several areas including Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru
The ban by Kerala and Karnataka comes a day after the forest fire at Kurangini hills on Sunday trapped 39 persons – mostly women – who had gone on a trek. While the Tamil Nadu government announced that 10 people had been killed in the fire, many of the injured are battling for their life with burns ranging from 40% to 98%.
The tragic incident has raised several questions including on whether proper permissions were taken from the forest department by the organisers of the trek. There have also questions raised over whether the forest department ignored alerts about the fire and whether the rescue was made in time.