Unrestricted entry of vehicles contributed to stamede: Forest

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 00:16

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Forest
Department is of the view that unrestricted entry of vehicles
for ferrying pilgrims into the Pullumedu trekking path was
one of the factors that paved the way for the stampede that
claimed the lives of 102 Sabarimala pilgrims on Firday last.

The report drawn up by the Forest Department on the tragedy
cited that its earlier warnings to regulate vehicles like
jeeps and autorickshawas had been largely ignored by the
Trvancore Devaswom Board and other agencies, Department
sources said.

Flow of pilgrims through Uppupara on the Pullumedu route
during the peak pilgrim season had been a comparatively
recent phenomemon. Earlier, pilgrims coming through that area
used to proceed from Vallakkaddavu through small estate roads
to Sathram, about 10 km Vandiperiyar, and, then to the shrine
through the Poonkavanam forests.

The Uppupara route was closed in 2001 on the ground that the
large flow of humanbeings and vehciles could cause disturbance
to wildlife including the endangered Neeligiri Thar.

It was then suggested that Sathram area should be developed
as an alternative base camp for the pilgrims, where the TDB
has around 20 acres of land at its dispolsal.

However, this suggestion had been ignored and the route
was opened during the season under pressure from Devaswom
Board, local politicians and vehicle operators. This forced
the Forest Department to temporarily open the route during the
season.

By a modest estimates as many as 7000 vehicles pass
through the area during the high pilgrim season every year.

Despite pressures and constraint, the Forest Department had
been implementing a Pilgrim Management plan for the last
10 years.

The department also rubbished the theory doing the round
that a chain put across the path was one of the reasons for
the mishap. Whatever barricades to check the incursion of
vehicles into forests had been put up in such a manner that
they would not cause any obstruction to the trekking pilgrims,
sources said.

Meanwhile, the Field Director of Periyar Tiger Reserve,
in which the shrine and the adjoining areas come, had also
draw up a report to be submitted to the National Tiger
Conservation Authority (NTCA).

"Based on the information collected from the field,we have
prepared a primary report on the stampede citing similar
reasons as factors contributing to the tragedy", a senior
PTR official said.

The preliminary finding was that the tragedy had been
triggered by a minor collision involving a jeep and an
autorickshaw, which put a pressure on the heavy stream of
pilgrims heading home after the `Makara jyothi` darshan,
the official said.

Around 1.5 lakh pilgrims had been passing through the
route on evening of the mishap, which happened in the buffer
zone of PTR.

Kerala High Court had yesterday asked the Police, Forest and
Travancore Devaswom Board to submit reports on the tragedy.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 00:16

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