Doodhsagar falls trek RPF & State Govt need to sort out the process & rules - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Doodhsagar falls trek RPF & State Govt need to sort out the process & rules

Doodhsagar falls is a popular monsoon trekking in Goa. The 22-24 km round trip trek is taken by thousands of individuals every weekend but hated by Railways. There is a clash of interest between RPF (Railway Protection Force), Goa Govt State Forest Department, Tourism Department, tourists and local guides in Colem. 

Background Information

Doodhsagar falls is one of the biggest, beautiful falls in India. It has been featured in movies like Chennai Express, Maina etc. There are multiple ways to see this water falls

  1. Train- take a train from Madgaon or Kolem till Castle Rock on the reverse - You may get to view the falls from moving train for a few seconds only, no scheduled stop in Doodhsagar so can’t get enough time even for a proper selfie.

  2. Jeep Safari: Only from October till May end

  3. Trekking: All through the year, but popular during monsoon when Jeep is not available

The trekking trail is about 12 kms one way. And it involves walking along the railway track for few kms, in order to cut the longer distance if we are to trek along the jeep trail. 

But the railway tracks are to be protected by RPF. RPF doesn’t like thousands of people walking on their tracks in the forest. RPF’s point of view is understandable- their mandate is to protect the railway tracks and other infrastructure and too much people means lots of risks

  • What if some trekker is a terrorist and leaves a bomb on the track?
  • People on the track means drivers have to drive slowly and carefully, more stress on them and slower train journeys, more loss to Railway
  • People may damage railway infrastructure- wires, cables, etc
  • People committing suicide or dying under the train on railway track is also an issue
  • Railway doesn’t get any revenue from people visiting Doodhsagar falls, so they have no motive to assist trekkers
  • When 1000s of trekkers are descending on the tracks, RPF simply doesn’t have the manpower to monitor all of them and ensure safety of trains, people and tracks. Because the trekker inflow is seasonal- max during monsoon weekends, less during weekdays/non monsoon season, railway can’t hire more permanent staff for this purpose. So easiest way out is to ban people.

However this ban on trekking on railway track is poorly enforced

  • There are no signage in Colem town stating trekking is not allowed. Obviously everyone knows people are coming to trek. Only some random scare is infused and not a clear foolproof ban.
  • Forest department collects 100 Rs per person as a fee to trek in their forest. They can coordinate with RPF and fix a clear process to avoid trekkers clashing with RPF and may be share some portion of ticket fee with Railway as well. Given that 2000-3000 people visit Doodhsagar falls trekking on each weekend day and fewer people on weekdays, Forest Department is making 25000 people * 100 Rs per person = 25-30 lakh rupees every month for nothing. If they are collecting so much money isn't it their responsibility to facilitate safe passage?
  • RPF does some random checks, catches a few trekkers, harasses them and leaves after taking money or giving warning. Local guides have built a well coordinated network to know where RPF is checking and how to avoid that area while taking their guests to and from Doodhsagar falls
  • Those who can bribe more can get more unauthorized services- like a station master can make a goods train stop and take passenger to falls, drivers can make unauthorized stops to pick/drop people and so on.
  • All these could also be a ploy from trek operators. Collect 1200 Rs per person promising multiple things but then don’t take them to important viewpoints/locations claiming RPF is not allowing- saves them time to cater to more tourists same day. RPF issue is never explained when you call to enquire or book or during pre-trek briefing. It is brought up after trek starts. Tourists won't be told that they won't be taken to the railway bridge level to get full view of the falls, only to the bottom portion.
  • People cross railway tracks all over the country. Just to go to a spot on the other side of the track if road access needs 10-15 kms detour, most would prefer to cross the track to save time and fuel. Not possible to put barricades or employ staff to avoid this all over the country.

Way forward:

  1. RPF can identify few designated spots through which people can cross the tracks. Have someone to monitor these spots and ensure all tourists pass through these spots only and not elsewhere.
  2. Trekkers bags can be checked at these check posts to ensure there is no security threat and instructions can be given to tourists what not to do on the tracks
  3. Build a revenue sharing model with forest department and trek organizers so that treks can be legally allowed and all stakeholders get a bit of revenue.

Will be better if Goa tourism coordinates with all stakeholders and puts in place a clear, safe process for all the stakeholders, so that 

  • Trekkers don’t have to fear getting caught by RPF and jailed/fined
  • Display rules, do’s and don’ts in Kolem town where trek begins. Trekkers are clearly informed what is allowed and what is not
  • Trek organizers/guides don’t have to find alternate paths for illegal crossing every day
  • Railway also gets a bit of revenue to hire additional staff if required.
  • Trek organizers are prevented from collecting money from tourists and then not take them to some of the viewpoints/destinations claiming RPF is not allowing.

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