Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 18 (Agencies): The Kerala Forest Department is of the view that unrestricted entry of vehicles for ferrying pilgrims into the Pullumedu trekking path was one of the factors that paved the way for the stampede that claimed the lives of 102 Sabarimala pilgrims on Friday last.

The report drawn up by the Forest Department on the tragedy cited that its earlier warnings to regulate vehicles like jeeps and autorickshawas had been largely ignored by the Trvancore Devaswom Board and other agencies, Department sources said.

Flow of pilgrims through Uppupara on the Pullumedu route during the peak pilgrim season had been a comparatively recent phenomemon. Earlier, pilgrims coming through that area
used to proceed from Vallakkaddavu through small estate roads to Sathram, about 10 km Vandiperiyar, and, then to the shrine through the Poonkavanam forests.

The Uppupara route was closed in 2001 on the ground that the large flow of humanbeings and vehciles could cause disturbance to wildlife including the endangered Neeligiri Thar.

It was then suggested that Sathram area should be developed as an alternative base camp for the pilgrims, where the TDB has around 20 acres of land at its disposal.

However, this suggestion had been ignored and the route was opened during the season under pressure from Devaswom Board, local politicians and vehicle operators. This forced
the Forest Department to temporarily open the route during the season.

By a modest estimates as many as 7000 vehicles pass through the area during the high pilgrim season every year.

Despite pressures and constraint, the Forest Department had been implementing a Pilgrim Management plan for the last 10 years.

The department also rubbished the theory doing the round that a chain put across the path was one of the reasons for the mishap. Whatever barricades to check the incursion of vehicles into forests had been put up in such a manner that they would not cause any obstruction to the trekking pilgrims, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Field Director of Periyar Tiger Reserve, in which the shrine and the adjoining areas come, had also draw up a report to be submitted to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

"Based on the information collected from the field, we have prepared a primary report on the stampede citing similar reasons as factors contributing to the tragedy", a senior PTR official said.

The preliminary finding was that the tragedy had been triggered by a minor collision involving a jeep and an autorickshaw, which put a pressure on the heavy stream of pilgrims heading home after the 'Makara jyothi' darshan, the official said.

Around 1.5 lakh pilgrims had been passing through the route on evening of the mishap, which happened in the buffer zone of PTR.

Kerala High Court had on Monday asked the Police, Forest and Travancore Devaswom Board to submit reports on the tragedy.