Karnataka Forest Department temporarily bans trekking at sites lacking online booking facility

This is in response to concerns about the potential harm to forests and water sources due to heavy tourism in densely forested hilly areas.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jan 30, 2024 | 8:47 PMUpdatedJan 30, 2024 | 9:24 PM

Karnataka Forest Department temporarily bans trekking at sites lacking online booking facility

Following the recent record influx of trek enthusiasts at Kodagu’s Kumaraparvata on 26 January, the Karnataka government on Tuesday, 30 January, took a decisive step to address the issues arising from overcrowding and environmental concerns in trekking areas.

The government on Tuesday temporarily banned treks at sites lacking an online booking system.

With this, it aims to regulate visitor numbers and safeguard ecologically sensitive zones.

This move comes in response to environmental experts’ concerns about the impact on forests and the potential harm to water sources caused by uncontrolled tourism in densely forested hilly areas and the Western Ghats.

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The problems

In a statement, Karnataka’s Forest, Ecology, and Environment Minister Eshwar Khandre said: “In recent times, many young people in the state have started trekking to forest hilltops, leading to overcrowding on weekends.”

He noted: “Unfortunately, these visitors are littering the nearby villages and ecologically sensitive areas with plastic carry bags, bottles, plates, leftover food, and other waste, posing a threat to wildlife.”

Pointing at the recent record footfall at Kodagu’s Kumaraparvatha, Khandre said: “Thousands of trekkers visited Kumaraparvata, and it went viral on social media. Some of the visitors even erected tents and stayed overnight on the hills.”

He added: “Environmental experts have expressed their concerns about the survival of the forest due to such activities. If a large number of people continue to visit the densely forested hilly areas and the Western Ghats every week, it will be a big challenge for the Forest Department staff to control and check them.”

He noted: “This also harms the environment, and there is a danger of polluting water sources.”

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The order

Khandre continued: “In this regard, it has been suggested to implement an online booking system at all trekking sites in the state and limit the number of visitors.”

He also said: “Additionally, it has been recommended to temporarily block treks at all trekking sites that do not have an online booking facility until a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is formulated.”

According to the Forest Department: “There are 23 officially recognised trekking sites in Karnataka.”

It elaborated: “There are five trekking points in Belagavi, four each in the Chikkamagaluru and Tumakuru districts, two in Ramangara, three each in Ballari and Chikkaballapur, and one each in Kolar and Bengaluru Rural.”