As thousands of devotees visit the temples that have come up in Tungareshwar, Yeoor and Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on the occasion of Maha Shivratri, forest officials and volunteers are having a tough time keeping the litter of plastic, paper and sundry articles in check. The waste adds to the threat of forest fires. Yesterday, around 10 cases of forest fires were reported, and thankfully, were quickly controlled. Now, the forest department has decided to tackle the problem with an iron fist.
In two weeks, the officials have decided to dig 2-to-3-metres-deep trenches on the small pathways leading to the temples so that people are not able to reach the shrines, in turn, reducing the littering and threat to forest fires. Wildlife Expert Krishna Tiwari, who has been going to Tungareshwar along with an association Volunteers, on Maha Shivratri, said, “For over five years, I have been coming to Tungareshwar along with my friends to stop instances of forest fires and littering and have seen a steep rise in the number of people visiting Tungareshwar, Yeoor and SGNP on Shivratri.
This is a negative sign as a lot of littering takes place. People light oil lamps and candles on the path leading to the temple because of which forest fires occur. If we want to save the environment and forests then these things should be stopped.” Over three lakh devotees visit the temples and shrines in Tungareshwar, SGNP and Yeoor. Except for Tungareshwar temple, there are many temples and shrines that have cropped up without permission within forest jurisdiction. The forest department also has plans to bring down some of these structures in the forests.
When MiD DAY visited some of the locations in Yeoor range in Thane and Tungareshwar yesterday, many people were seen littering the forest area with plastic cups and paper dishes. This was after the forest department, with the help of Volunteers, did not allow the devotees to take matchboxes, cigarettes and candles. “We are not against those who are visiting the temple. Our only request to people is that whenever they come to the temples within the forest limit, the devotees should not carry polythene bags, matchboxes and should not litter the area. But there are many who don’t listen.
In order to protect the forest and stop people from venturing into the restricted forest area, we will start digging 2-3-metres-deep and six-metres-long trenches on the pathways that lead to the temples in the forest in the next two weeks. The trenches will be dug up at such a location from where there is no alternate path which can be taken to reach these temples,” said SGNP director Sunil Limaye. To ensure that devotees don’t venture into the forest, BEST buses were arranged so that people entering the park could directly be taken to Kanheri and transported back.