With trans-Sahyadri trek, forest department enters nature trail tourism today

The forest department will organise a 10-day nature walk from Radhanagari Sanctuary in Kolhapur to Bhimashankar in Pune beginning Saturday. NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust is helping it in the "first trans-Sahyadri trek".

"The idea is to use the trekking culture in Sahyadri to create livelihood opportunities for villages and have more eyes and ears for eco-protection," said principal secretary (forest) Pravin Pardeshi.

"Such trekking generally happens in the Himalayas and African national parks. This is the first time in this part of the country that we have started such a programme with official sanction." Of the 147-km trek, 78 will be covered on foot, 55 by bus and 40 by motor boats. "The treks will not pass through the tiger reserve," Pardeshi said.

Villages along the route will offer homestays and eco-developing committees will charge a fee for the facility. Many amateur trekking and nature walk groups in Mumbai and Pune are already using the tracks in Sahyadri.

The forest department and Zilla Parishad will work with night-halt villages to create homestay facilities with biodegradable latrines.

There will be a separate entry fee for each of the 10 days. It will be collected by the village committee that will maintain the trail, recycle plastic, ensure zero firewood felling and douse forest fires, if any. But trekkers will have the option of quitting midway.

Signages at all significant stops will talk of history, natural history, plants, birds and animals of the area. Trekkers will have to hire a village guide for Rs 200 a day.

Hemant Kenjale of Creative Nature Friends River Valley Society, Karad, said, "Till now, the trekkers were using trails without official sanction. They always had the fear of being intercepted. Now, they will be able to enjoy it officially, do studies and even publish them."

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