Forest officials take a walk on the wild side

Oct 17, 2011, 07:58 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

In an attempt to keep authorities fit and healthy, the state forest department conducted a 25-km walkathon from Atgaon Forest to Tembha Forest Post

In an attempt to keep authorities fit and healthy, the state forest department conducted a 25-km walkathon from Atgaon Forest to Tembha Forest Post

While the city enjoyed a lazy Sunday morning, more than 30 forest officials put on their jogging shoes and sweated it out in an ambitious 25-km walkathon. The event, organised by the forest department, began from Atgaon Forest post in Shahpur Forest zone of Thane circle, and ended at the Tembha Forest Post via the Tansa Wildlife sanctuary.

Walk That Walk: Forest officials, including Principal Secretary (Forests)
Pravin Pardesi, at the 25-km walkathon organised by the forest
department yesterday. Pardesi finished the stretch in four hours.

Pic/Ranjeet Jadhav

More than 40 high-ranking officials turned up for the event at 7 am, including the Principal Secretary (Forests), Pravin Pardesi, and Chief Forest Conservator (CCF) of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Sunil Limaye.

Officials said the event was organised in an attempt to encourage fitness and help build their stamina. Any candidate vying for the post of a forest official should be fit enough to walk a 25-km stretch once a week.

Hence, forest officials were made to walk the stretch to test their fitness levels.

However, fitness was not the only motive behind the walk. One official told MiD DAY that the event was organised following reports of encroachment and illegal activities in the jungles. Pardesi, principal secretary (forests), said, "In the past months, we have received reports of people encroaching. Therefore, I think it is apt to conduct this walkathon, so our officials are fit enough to combat these problems that are plaguing our forests."

Moving ahead
Officials also added that while it was a lazy Sunday, they were all motivated to finish the event, thanks to presence of the Principal Secretary (Forests), who finished the entire stretch in four hours. A forest guard, requesting anonymity, said, "At times we have noticed that senior officers come for such events only to inaugurate them. They come and walk a small distance and then leave. However, I was amazed to see the Principal Secretary covering the entire distance. And not only did he cover the distance, he also halted in between and interacted with the tribal people living in the forests, listening to their problems."

Pardesi said that tribals accounted for nearly half of all the appointments made in the recent forest guard recruitment drive. He added that recruiting them was a practical move, as they are aware of the roads and pathways in the forest, and care for the ecosystem.

He also announced that the state Forest Department would be planting 100 crore trees.

And it appears that the walkathon has already inspired others. Chief Conservator of Sanjay Gandhi National Park Sunil Limaye said, " Such events should be conducted at regular intervals, as walking plays a very important role in forest guarding. We are going to ensure that many more events are held in SGNP to spread greater awareness."

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