Monday, November 12, 2012

Hikers join govt to clean state’s forts

Posted On Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 03:31:31 AM

Forts in the State, many of which are symbols of the 17th century Maratha supremacy, give enough reasons to cringe, to environmentalists and tourists alike. Badly maintained and littered with rubbish, these forts scream public and government apathy.

The State government, realising neighbours like Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are surging ahead in tourism sector, has decided to get its act right.

The State Forest Department has roped in leading group of hikers and mountaineers to launch a no-plastic-in-forts campaign.

On Wednesday, Principal Secretary (State Forest Department) Praveen Pardeshi met representatives of 35 groups of hikers and mountaineers. An avid hiker and wildlife lover, Pardeshi also represented a group called Mantralaya Hikers.

A senior Forest Department official said, “Most forts in the State are located in forests. These forts are littered with plastic and garbage. We have set up committees at rural level to clean the forts. The committees will charge a small fee to those visiting the forts, and in turn, they will be re-sponsible for keeping the structures clean. The hikers will also assist in keeping the forts clean.”

The Raigad Fort

Hikers were thrilled to be part of this initiative. P Tidke of All Ma-harashtra Stunts and Hikers Association said, “These forts belong to all of us. We will educate people, we will stress on the fact that these are our properties.”

Forts closer to Mumbai and Pune are in worst of conditions. Sinhagadh Fort 30 kms from Pune, for instance, where visitors often find empty bot-tles of alcohol, is a nightmare for the Forest Department.

Senior hiker Sunil Raj said, “In forests, there is no civic body to collect waste. If we hope to keep forests and forts clean, we have to involve those living there. We will get village committee members to act as guides, and they can earn money out of it.”

Two years ago, Raj’s group launched a similar initiative, but lack of funds shelved it. Nandini Mathure from Young Zingaroo Trekkers said, “The government is on the right track. Apart from protecting the forts and forests, local people will get employment.”