Salem: In a swift, major decision, the State Forest department has banned trekking in Kolli hills and Yercaud hills till May 31 in the wake of the latest forest fire in Kurangani hills in Theni district. Entry into Sathayamangalam forest has also been banned. Even as the death toll in Kurangani hills forest fire tragedy touched 11 on Tuesday, the state government has banned trekking in hill forests temporarily.
The Kolli hills in Namakkal district has become vulnerable to wild fires due to dry grass fields and trees during summer in particular. District Forest Officer (DFO), R Kanchana said, “people hardly turn to Kolli hills for trekking.
Last year, only three teams applied for permission. So far, no one has approached us for trekking expedition this year. However, as per the State government's direction, a ban on trekking has been imposed till May 31.” Ms Kanchana further said that Forest department officials in Namakkal, Rasipuram, Kollimalai and Mullu Kurichi forest divisions were alerted to intensify monitoring in the sensitive Kolli Hills. She warned that if anyone entered the forest areas without permission, severe legal action would be initiated against them.
Similarly, officials have banned trekking in Yercaud forest area in Salem district. The DFO, Salem, A Periyasamy, said, “people should get prior permission from Forest department officials for trekking and however, such activities are banned for this summer. Public are also cautioned against bringing any inflammable things to the forest limit. Severe action would be taken against persons who raise a fire in forest limits. In addition a team of 24 officials will be monitoring forest fires.”
Meanwhile, Forest officials in Sathyamangalam division also announced a ban on entry of people into Sathyamangalam forest range without permission. According to Forest Ranger, Mr G Johnson, officials have started creating awareness among members of the public to keep away from the forest areas in the run-up to summer.