Pune: In the wake of the recent death of a young trekker named Harshad Apte (33-years-old), hailing from Badlapur, at Sangla Valley in Himachal Pradesh due to high altitude sickness, a revised government resolution (GR) by an Expert Committee of State Government (SG) will soon be released.
It will be mandatory for each trekking group to have a medical assistant with them and each trekker will have to obtain a medical certificate from a certified medical practitioner.
Umesh Zirpe, Member of the Expert Committee, said that they are in the process of requesting the Central government to allow the trekking groups to carry a satellite phone so that an alert message can be sent in case of emergency.
In 2013, the Bombay High Court (HC) had asked the Maharashtra government to come up with a policy, which would focus on rules and regulation to be followed by trekking agencies, trekkers and mountaineers. This HC order came following a plea filed by the parents of a young trekker, who died of a respiratory disorder during a Himalayan expedition in 2007. However, earlier there was no such policy made by the State government.
Zirpe, who is also founder of city-based Giripremi Institute of Mountaineering, said, “In 2014, when the government released the GR, a bunch of adventure sports enthusiasts and organisers including me, brought to the court’s notice through their PIL that the GR, which was meant to lay down guidelines and instructions for registration of organisations, agents and people, who undertake adventure sports activities such as trekking, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, hang gliding and paragliding, was not being implemented effectively. Also, several provisions of the GR, especially those pertaining to registration, were impractical.”
Zirpe further said, “After the PIL was filed in the court, the government told the court it was aware of the inadequacies in the GR and had decided to revise it. The expert committee consisting of eight members was formed in 2015 in which we had revised several points including safety and security measures. The GR is ready now and we are only waiting for Governor Vidyasagar Rao’s signature.”
Prasanna Joshi, Vice-President of Girivihar Adventure Club of Mumbai and one of the Expert Committee members, said, “There are 60 adventure sports established in India in which there are three categories namely - land, air and water. But unfortunately, there were no set rules and regulations made by the government on how they will be followed or in case of a mishap, who will be blamed, but soon the revised GR will be released.”
Suggestions in the revised GR includes
The trekking agency should be registered with the State government and with the district committee.
The activities of the trek should be shared with the district committee along with the number of trekkers going for the trek, their phone number and address.
The instructor should be well qualified from a reputed mountaineering institute.
Insurance of participants should be made mandatory.
Each trekker should obtain medical fitness certificate before going on expedition.
Each group should have in-house medical assistant.
Trekking equipments should be checked by the district committee.
‘Onus on trekking agency’
According to Zirpe, if any such incident takes place, the trekking agency is to be blamed as almost 70 per cent of these agencies do not have proper manpower and are not qualified. They do not have the proper equipment, no proper emergency response or backup, and negligence by the leader of the trekking group is the important factor. Also, Zirpe mentioned that seven to eight years back, only five to six thousand people used to trek in the Himalayas but now, in a year, more than one lakh people visit the Himalayas and they are not proper mountaineers but tourist trekkers. Also, the death rate has increased to almost more than 100 a year. And the trekking agencies, which are getting registered, are more in number and they are not well qualified to hold such activities.