Thanks To Irresponsible Tourism, No Paragliding, Rafting In Uttarakhand For Now

Uttarakhand High Court has banned paragliding, water rafting and other water sports citing environmental concerns and safety of people engaging in these activities. 

If you are planning an adventure trip to Uttarakhand, you’ll need to unpack your bags.

Uttarakhand High Court has banned paragliding, water rafting and other water sports citing environmental concerns and safety of people engaging in these activities. A division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh directed the state government to prepare a policy to regulate adventure tourism within two weeks. The order was issued by the HC on Monday, but a copy was made available only on Thursday, Hindustan Times reported.

“We are shocked to know that the state government is permitting camping sites on the river beds. It pollutes the environment and ecology of the river and the surrounding areas.”

“The State government is directed to prepare the transparent policy within a period of two weeks. Till the policy is framed, no white river rafting, paragliding and other water sports shall be permitted in the state of Uttarakhand,” the order said.

Taking note of the death due to rafting, the court observed that such adventure sports should only be permitted under highly trained professionals.

“The state government cannot be oblivious to its duties to regulate and restrict the unauthorized activities. The white river rafting is a serious sport. Paragliding is equally dangerous if not regulated. The water sports in big lakes like Tehri Dam can prove fatal. These are required to be regulated,” the court observed.

The Court’s order came on a PIL filed by Rishikesh-resident Hari Om Kashyap who had said that the state authorities were giving illegal leases in favour of private agencies to organize water sports on the Ganga. Temporary structures are being permitted to be set up on the banks of the river and rafting is being carried out by private companies in the absence of any law, according to the petition.

The HC noted that raw sewage was being permitted to directly flow into the river.

“We have also gone through the photographs. We can see people organizing picnics inside the river water. They can be seen drinking on the river water. The sanctity of the river Ganga is not maintained by the respondent-state by permitting the lease of river beds,” the order said.

The ban order has dealt a severe blow to the tourism industry which employs approximately 10,000 people including guides, cooks, instructors and drivers.

Indian Express

Reacting on the ban on rafting , Kiran Todaria, president of the Indian Association of Professional Rafting Outfitters (IAPRO), told Hindustan Times: “At least 300 rafting operators are active along a 36-km strretch of the Ganga. “It’s an industry that provides indirect jobs to no less than 10,000 families.”

Environmental activists allege that rafters camp along the river bed and use vehicles to transport their rafts into the water. Experts say this causes erosion of the river bed and traffic congestion along the river. The visitors often leave behind litter and plastic that gradually chokes the river.

Speaking with the Indian Express, Manjul Rawat, general secretary of Indian Association of Professional Rafting Outfitters (IAPRO), a commercial body of rafting operators, said “The court order is confusing. It mentions the setting up of beach camping sites on riverbeds, but after an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) three years back, setting beach camps was banned along the Ganga in Rishikesh. Also, regulations are already in place for rafting. We agree that improvements can be made, but banning rafting and other water sports is incorrect as it will affect the livelihood of thousands of people that depend on the rafting industry.”