Kerala forest department to clamp down on illegal resorts and homestays near forest areas
The forest authorities have also added that they would take departmental action against forest officers allowing the functioning of illegal trekking and other such activities
The recent death of 26-year-old Shahana has sparked a statewide action against illegal, unlicensed homestays and resorts functioning throughout Kerala. The authorities have decided to close down all resorts and homestays established close to the forest if wildlife presence is detected nearby. The action would also be taken if inspections reveal that the resort or establishment in any way obstructs the free travel of wildlife animals.
Shahana was staying at a resort in Meppadi’s Elimbileri when she was trampled to death by an elephant on Saturday. The two others with the 26-year-old Kannur resident tried to rush her to a private hospital, but she was brought dead. A probe by the panchayat authorities revealed that the resort was only functioning with a homestay licence, and they had extended their housing facilities to illegal tents in the forest area. Since the area wasn’t residential, there weren't any measures to keep animals out of the location, especially elephants. The original probe led to the closure of the resort and further actions against its owners.
Following the incident, the state authorities have decided to take stringent action against such incidents. They have informed resort owners that they would take extreme actions as per the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act if any animal hunting occurs in the cover of night camping, night safari, illegal trekking, and such outdoor activities. Meanwhile, Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar IFS has recommended a detailed report on the survey of all resorts built close to forests in the state. Following this, Kannur Chief Forest Conservator DK Vinod has asked five Divisional Forest Officers to submit the reports within a month.
Moreover, the forest department has also asked the mapping of resorts and homestays around one km radius of forest areas. This would also include studies on the presence of wildlife in and around the area, and if so, then a shortlist of that would be submitted to the District Collectors, and the forest department would recommend the shutting of such establishments. The authorities have also added that they would take departmental action against forest officers allowing the functioning of illegal trekking and other such activities.
Wayanad has been facing an issue of unlicensed resorts and homestays that has been attracting tourists with discounted packages and adventure tourism especially following the Covid-19 lockdown. However, the tents and stays are mostly planned inside the forest areas where they don't have a license and so no security measures to keep the clients safe. There have been repeated incidents in the past, especially since the panchayat authorities have no clue about such activities.