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Date: 22 June 2018

HC Bans River Rafting Paragliding and Other Water Sports in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand News

The Uttarakhand high court has restricted paragliding, and river rafting other water sports until the administration puts in place a policy to regulate both nature and individuals taking part in these activities.

The court's decision comes as a shock to adventure tourism and water sports in the Himalayan state. A division bench of judges Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh requested the ban in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) documented by Rishikesh-based social activist Hari Om Kashyap.



The HC directed the state government to enact suitable legislation for regulating adventure and water sports throughout Uttarakhand. The order was issued by the HC on Monday, but a copy was made accessible just on Thursday.

"The State government is directed to set up the straightforward policy withing a time of two weeks. Till the arrangement is confined, no river rafting, paragliding and other water sports should be allowed in the State of Uttarakhand," the order said.

In the past decade, adventure sports organizations have mushroomed in the state, a popular goal for tourists from around the country, offering everything from white water rafting to paragliding to ziplining with no regulatory oversight. White water rafting in Uttarakhand is esteemed at a yearly Rs. 75-80 crore. It employs 5,000 – 7,000 people including guides, cooks, educators and drivers.

Kiran Todaria, President of the Indian Association of Professional Rafting Outfitters (IAPRO), says at least 300 rafting operators are active along a 36-km strretch of the Ganga. "It's an industry that provides indirect occupations to no less than 10,000 families," she said.

The applicant said in his PIL that state authorities were giving illegal leases in favour of private agencies to organize water sports on the Ganga. As indicated by the petitioner, brief structures are being allowed to be set up on the banks of the river.

"We have also gone through the photos. We can see individuals sorting out picnics inside the river water. They can be seen drinking the river water. The holiness of the stream Ganga isn't kept up by the respondent-state by allowing the rent of river beds," the order said.

The HC noticed that raw sewage was being permitted to directly flow into the river. The state government has till date not enacted any law to control white water rafting, paragliding or water sports, it said.

"The state government can't be careless in regards to its obligations to manage and confine the unauthorized activities. The white water rafting is a serious game. Paragliding is similarly risky if not directed. The water sports in big lakes like Tehri Dam can prove deadly. These are required to be regulated," the court observed.

SS Chauhan, deputy advocate general speaking to the state government in the case, said that a law is in the offing. "The state government has not pointed out correctly what is the yardstick, rules and parameters to authorize the lease in favour of the private parties on the river beds including for sailing/boating, paragliding and other water sports," the HC stated, taking note of the danger of individuals dying when a raft capsizes in the river.

"This can only be permitted to be managed by the highly trained professionals. The river beds can't be leased out for a song. There must be transparent procedure for welcoming the applications after fixing the minimum rates for utilizing the water. The state government can't allow the utilization of streams without fixing reasonable charges. The tourism must be advanced yet it is required to be controlled. The games for delight can't be allowed to end in a disaster", the order said.

The HC said it was "shocked to realize that the state government is allowing camping sites on the river beds," including that this " pollutes the earth and ecology of the river and the surrounding areas”.

The court said launching points of river rafting are choked with traffic. "Enormous rafts are placed on vehicles of little size. The vehicles, on which the rafts are carried out, are taken directly near the water itself. The state shall not permit the use of vehicles right up to the rivers," the order said, adding that the rafts would need to be carried manually from some distance away.

Uttarakhand Tourism

 

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