No more walking ‘green mile’ for Pune trekkers: Safety top priority as accidents spike
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No more walking ‘green mile’ for Pune trekkers: Safety top priority as accidents spike

pune Updated: Aug 20, 2017 16:28 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune

One of the victims of a trekking accident being taken to hospital after the Shivdurga Mitra Rescue mission.(HT PHOTO)

Maharashtra is blessed with two major mountain ranges, the Sahyadri and Satpuda, in addition to a long coastline. Almost throughout the year, adventure activities, especially land-based adventure activities are conducted by hundreds of organisations catering to thousands of participants across age groups. These programmes are of varied nature, addressing different goals related to leisure, education including personal development and therapy. Also, trekking and mountaineering in the Himalaya evolves naturally for adventurers in Maharashtra. Many organisations in Maharashtra arrange Himalaya-based programmes independently as well as with the help of local operators.

However, in the last few years, the mishaps during trekking activities are on a rise. It has been observed that the careless, irresponsible attitude of the trek organisers and trekkers, is the main reason behind those tragedies. These newly-found commercial groups are least bothered about the safety measures. Thus the trekking community in Maharashtra is asking for serious measures to curb those incidents and bring all inclusive Government Resolution (GR).

And most importantly they want apex state body – Akhil Maharashtra Giryarohan Mahasangh (AMGM) to get approval from Maharashtra Government’s sports department.

“We have formed AMGM long back, but 1.5 years back, we decided to get approval from state government as it was the need of the hour. Considering the increasing number of mishaps and commercialisation, it is required to have an authorised apex body, which can regulate the trekking organisations of Maharashtra,” said Umesh Zirpe of Giripremi.

“For any sport, it is required to have district associations, state associations and one apex national body affiliated with Indian Olympic Association. However despite getting considered as adventure sport, trekking and mountaineering don’t have any of these associations. Indian Mountaineering Federation is our apex body, but it’s run by government and doesn’t fulfil the requirement of the sport federation.

Talking about the recent demand of having safety guidelines, he said, “It’s very complicated to get everything under one umbrella. Trekking comes under sports and it also considered as adventure tourism. So the last GR was published by tourism department and was expected to get implemented by sports department. This confusion led us nowhere.”

In 2014, Maharashtra’s tourism department published a GR regarding rules and regulation to control the commercialisation in this field. However, it contained several impractical factors and trekking community demanded to revive the GR. Then some leading trekkers formed a 11-member committee and submitted a 65-page draft of safety guidelines. However, even after 2 years, the no action has been taken on the draft.

“Lack of proper guidelines has been a major reason behind the increasing number of unauthorised and irresponsible trekking groups. They are just into money making business and are least bothered about the sanity of the sport. Unfortunately they are spoiling the name of trekking community,” said Pune-based trekker Onkar Oak.

The genesis of this process of evolving comprehensive safety guidelines applicable to organisers of adventure activities from the state of Maharashtra lies in a Public Interest Litigation (No 184/2007) in the Bombay High Court by the parents of a 15-year-old boy who lost his life due to high altitude sickness in the Himalaya. The parents claimed that the organisers had not made adequate arrangements for the safety of the trekking group. The court vide its order, dated 12th July, 2013 in the matter directed the Maharashtra Government to formulate comprehensive policy, guidelines or regulations to regulate the activity of unregistered organisations. Court has also expected that the state shall ensure the safety of the participants who will be taking part in mountaineering activities, camps and trekking expeditions. Akhil Maharashtra Giryarohan Mahasangh (AMGM), as an apex body, filed an application for intervention in the above referred PIL which was allowed by the court.

Safety Guidelines for trekking

A leader, co-leader and supporting leaders are to be appointed as per the requirement based on the difficulty level of that particular trek/hike.

• Organisers and Leaders need to be aware of access restrictions of the specific area and they are expected to seek advice and permissions as necessary.

• Leaders are suggested to have sufficient knowledge of and expected to respect local tradition and show interest in the social history to provide a stimulating and interesting trek / hike.

• A copy of the detailed planning including route detail and details of the members of the group will be kept in the office of the organisation.

• It is expected from the leader to act as the role model for the participants. It is of vital importance that the instructions given to the participants are followed by the leaders themselves. Leaders will hold the relevant qualification or equivalent Area Specific basic knowledge.

• Apart from Leader and co-leader, the availability of support leaders will determine the group size. The ratio will vary with the grade of the trek.

These safety guidelines have been derived after study of similar systems and procedures propounded by organizations like the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), Union Internationale Des Associations D’Alpinisme (UIAA), National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Outward Bound International (OB).

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 16:24 IST