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Planning a trek in Maharashtra? You might want to check the new stricter laws before heading out

The sports department of the state has come out with an all-inclusive government resolution (GR). The GR, dated July 26, 2018, has set sport-specific rules for trekking, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, parasailing, paragliding and water sports. 

pune Updated: Jul 31, 2018 17:32 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,trek,Maharashtra
(HT PHOTO)

In the last few years, fatal mishaps during trekking activities have been on a constant rise.

Taking into account the recent tragedies, Maharashtra state government has decided to make rules and preconditions stricter for organising adventure sports events. The sports department of the state has come out with an all-inclusive government resolution (GR). The GR, dated July 26, 2018, has set sport-specific rules for trekking, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, parasailing, paragliding and water sports.

In 2014, Maharashtra’s tourism department had published a GR regarding the rules and regulations to control commercialisation in the field. However, it contained several impractical factors and the trekking community demanded the cancellation of the government resolution. Following this, some leading trekkers formed a 11-member committee and submitted a 65-page draft of safety guidelines to the state government. After a gap of four years, the department has now come up with a revised set of rules.

As per the new GR, the organisations will have to take permissions from the forest department if any adventure activity is planned in reserved forest areas, and prior permission from the director general of civil aviation should be taken for organising adventure sports for aviation related events. For events pertaining to the sea, a written permission from Maritime board is mandatory.

Safety Guidelines for trekking

According to the government resolution dated July 26, 2018, certain safety guidelines need to be followed while on a trek in Maharashtra.

The leader, co-leader, and supporting leaders of the trekking group are expected to be trained and certified in their respective aventure sports.

They should be a certified first aider from a reputed organisation. If they don’t posses such knowledge, at least one person in the group must be a certified first aider.

The organisers must possess safety equipment of international standard.

If the activity is planned for more than one day, then the organisers should arrange eco-friendly fuel for cooking.

The organisers should get a fitness certificate from every participant.

Every participant must be insured and if not, the organisers should avail an insurance policy for that particular period of time (duration of the trek).

If the participants are below 18 years of age, one full-time caretaker for every 10 children must be appointed.

Need more clarity on guidelines, says trekking community

The new revised government resolution (GR) received mixed reactions from the trekking community. Though city trekkers welcomed the revised rule, they said that it still lacks clarity.

Satish Marathe, president of Giridarshan trekking club, said, “The new GR differentiates trekking and mountaineering. Most of the rules are for the climbing hill/mountains above 8,000m, and all the forts in Sahyadri are way below that level. Everything else is just the same. But it will restrict unprofessional and money-minded organisers, who don’t follow any safety protocols. The organisers who have been following the rules for years won’t have a problem.”

“They (state) have made a few corrections in their previous GR, but that’s not enough. They still haven’t made it clear as to how, when and where they are going to impose the rules. They have just given a technical explanation about adventure sports,” said Onkar Oak, a Pune-based trekker.

“Secondly, the question is about implementation. Who is going to monitor whether organisers are following the norms or not? In most of the cases, such norms are cross-checked only when an accident occurs. The rules are only for organisers. There is no dedicated rules for those who undertake adventure activities on their own,” Oak added.

‘Safe’ route to Harihar fort will destroy its beauty, says enthusiasts

Due to non-implementation of safety guidelines, the government is now trying to restrict the number of visitors to the Harihar fort in Nashik, or secure the adventurous stone-cut route.

According to Tejas Garge, state archaeology department director, the government, forest department and archaeological survey of India (ASI), are planning to install a new railing for the safety of visitors. The railing will not be just limited to the stone-carved steps, but will also secure the traverse and topmost part of the fort.

Interestingly, no suggestions were taken from the Gad Kille Sanvardhan Samitee (fort preservation committee) and Sachin Joshi, a member of committee, has written a letter to Tejas Garge, state archaeology department director, asking for details of the development plan. The fort preservation committee was formed in 2015 by the government of Maharashtra for the maintenance of forts in the state.

“The railing will destroy the beauty and thrill of Harihar fort. We totally oppose such kind of developments and we urge you to consider our plea,” said Joshi in his letter.

When contacted, Garge said no such decision has been taken yet.

“Though the topic was discussed at a meeting held with Nashik’s district collector, ASI officers, and forest department last week, it has not been finalised. We are yet to receive a proposal from the forest department. When we receive a written proposal, we will study the possibilities and will then take a decision. As of now, no railing will be installed on the fort for sure,” he said.

“We won’t permit any authority to install the railing on the top of the fort, but for steps, we need to check. In the last couple of years, the average footfall at the fort has increased tremendously. So either the number should be restricted, or precautions should be taken. If the local administration follows the system like Prabalgad, then there won’t be any need of the railing.”

Last week, Maharashtra government allotted Rs 4 crore for the development of Harihar fort in Nashik. The fort, which is famous for its stone-carved steps, is a hot pick among adventure enthusiasts, especially during monsoon.

About fort

Harihar fort, also known as Harshagad, is located 48km from Igatpuri, Nashik. It was constructed to look upon the trade route through Gonda Ghat. It has many visitors because of its peculiar rock-cut steps.

Background

The genesis of the evolving comprehensive safety guidelines, applicable to organisers of adventure activities from the state of Maharashtra, lies in a public interest litigation(PIL) (No 184/2007) in the Bombay high court. The PIL was submitted by the parents of a 15-year-old boy, who lost his life due to high-altitude sickness in the Himalayas. The parents claimed that the organisers had not made adequate arrangements for the safety of the trekking group. The court, in its order dated July 12, 2013, directed the Maharashtra government to formulate a comprehensive policy, guidelines or regulations to control trekking activities of unregistered organisations.

Recent trekking deaths

Ishita Mukund Mate (15) at Tung fort in Mulshi area on July 16, 2018

Hemendra Suresh Adhatrav (26) at Ghargad fort in Nashik on March 24, 2018

Chetan Dhande (27) at Kalavantin Durg, Panvel on February 10, 2018

Zubair Akbar Shaikh (9) at Lohagad fort, Lonavala on January 9, 2018

Yashwant Nageshwarrao Golapuri (19) at Torna, Velha on August 25, 2017

First Published: Jul 31, 2018 17:30 IST