The increase in the number of people visiting popular destinations like forts in Pune district during the monsoon season and cases of accident at these locations in recent years have prompted experienced trekkers to urge authorities to take preventive steps.
There have been reports of trekkers getting lost, falling in gorges, and overcrowding at these destinations, putting pressure on the sensitive flora and fauna and local resources.
Trekking-related accidents mainly occur during the monsoons.
Huge crowds have been reported on Sinhagad, Lohgad, Rajgad and Rajmachi forts last weekend.
On Sunday, around 15,000 people visited Sinhagad Fort that reported landslides at four to five places during the night. Visitors were stranded for four hours on Lohgad Fort and three hours at Tamhini Ghat on Sunday. Overcrowding was also reported at Bhushi Dam, Lonavla, Mahabaleshwar, Velha and Mulshi areas.
According to environmental experts, people visiting the popular spots have trebled during the past five years. They said that youngsters visit uncharted areas at these green spaces to capture the scenic beauty armed with drones, cameras, selfie sticks and GoPro cameras, risking their lives
Experts believe that the carrying capacity of natural spots, including forts, has been breached posing life-threatening situations.
Sunil Gaikwad, president, Shivdurg Mitra, Lonavla said, “The capacity of Lohgad fort is 2,000 and as many as 6,000 tourists visit the popular spot on weekends. The ASI does not bar on visitor count as it charges a fee from them. A ceiling on the number of visitors is needed as it can cause disastrous situations. There are no lavatory and first aid facilities on forts to handle emergencies. Places that tend to get overcrowded with tourists and trekkers during the monsoon season should be managed for crowd control by the local authorities.”
Gajanan Mandaware, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officer, said, “We have chalked guidelines and rules for allowing visitors on forts and places of archaeological importance to check increase in tourist traffic. We will also release an SOP regarding the number of visitors to be allowed on forts.”
Satyasai Karthik, deputy superintendent of police, Pune Rural, said, “Taking into account the huge tourist traffic at Lonavla and surrounding areas during monsoon, we have planned to deploy more policemen on ground to tackle the situation. We are in talks with the ASI regarding crowd management at Lohgad.”