The high court of Uttarakhand has banned paragliding, rafting and other water sports until the administration establishes a policy to regulate them in an action aimed at safeguarding the environment and the people involved in these activities.
The decision of the court is a shock to adventure tourism and water sports in the Himalayan state.
A court of division of magistrates Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh ordered the ban in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the social activist based in Rishikesh, Hari Om Kashyap.
The HC ordered the state government to enact adequate legislation to regulate water and adventure sports throughout Uttarakhand. The order was issued by the HC on Monday, but a copy was available only on Thursday.
“The state government is obliged to prepare the transparent policy within two weeks, until the policy is framed, rafting, paragliding and other water sports will not be allowed in the state of Uttarakhand,” the order said.
In the last decade, adventure sports companies have multiplied in the state, a popular destination for tourists from all over the country, offering everything from rafting to paragliding and zip-lining without regulatory oversight. Rafting in Uttarakhand waters is valued at an annual Rs. 75-80 million rupees Employs 5,000 to 7,000 people, including guides, cooks, instructors and drivers.
Kiran Todaria, president of the Indian Rafting Outfitters Association (IAPRO), says that at least 300 rafting operators are active along a 36 km stretch of the Ganges. “It’s an industry that provides indirect jobs to no less than 10,000 families,” he said.
The petitioner said in his PIL that state authorities were granting illegal concessions in favor of private agencies to organize water sports in the Ganges. According to the petitioner, the establishment of temporary structures on the banks of the river is allowed.
“We have also reviewed the photographs, we can see people organizing picnics in the river water, they can be seen drinking in the river water, the sanctity of the river Ganga is not maintained by the defendant state by allowing the lease of the river beds. the rivers, “the order said.
The HC noted that raw wastewater was allowed to flow directly into the river. To date, the state government has not enacted any law regulating rafting, paragliding or water sports in white rivers, he said.
“The state government can not ignore its obligations to regulate and restrict unauthorized activities White river rafting is a serious sport Paragliding is equally dangerous if it is not regulated Water sports in large lakes such as Tehri Dam they can be fatal, they must be regulated, “the court observed.
SS Chauhan, deputy governor general who represents the state government in the case, said a law is in sight.
“The state government has not indicated precisely what is the criteria, guidelines and parameters to sanction the lease in favor of private parties in the riverbeds, including boating / rafting, paragliding and other water sports,” he said. the HC, pointing out the risk of people dying when a raft capsizes in the river.
“This can only be allowed to be managed by highly trained professionals, riverbeds can not be rented for a song, there has to be a transparent procedure to invite applications after setting the minimum rates to use the water. The state can not allow the use of rivers without setting reasonable charges Tourism should be promoted, but regulation is required, pleasure sports can not be allowed to end in disaster, “said the order.
The HC said it was “shocked to know that the state government is allowing camping on riverbeds” and added that this “pollutes the environment and the ecology of the river and the surrounding areas.”
The court said that the rafting launch points on the river are full of traffic.
“Huge rafts are placed in small vehicles, and the vehicles, in which the rafts are carried out, are taken directly from the water itself, and the state will not allow the use of vehicles to the water of the rivers,” said the order, adding that the rafts would have to be transported manually from a distance.