Water sports, paragliding banned in Uttarakhand in a bid to regulate tourism

New Delhi: The high court has banned all water sports, paragliding and white river rafting in the state until a policy is framed to regulate these activities. In an order dated June 18, the HC directed Uttarakhand’s government to “prepare a transparent policy in this regard within a period of two weeks”.

This order is likely to have far-reaching implications for the state’s adventure tourism sector. The court also took note of rafting deaths every year due to capsizing of boats and said that it should only be permitted by highly trained professionals.

The court explained how “sports for pleasure cannot be permitted to end in disaster” while adding that the state government could not permit the use of rivers without fixing reasonable charges and inviting bids in a transparent procedure.

“We are shocked to know that the state government is permitting camping sites on river beds. It pollutes the environment and ecology of the river and the surrounding areas,” the division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh said, reported TOI.

It said that launching points of river rafting are choked with traffic and directed the government to not permit the use of vehicles right up to the rivers. “Huge rafts are placed on vehicles of a small size. The vehicles on which the rafts are carried out are taken directly near the water itself,” observed the order.

On hearing a public interest litigation filed by Hari Om Kashyap, a resident of Rishikesh — who  alleged that temporary structures are being set up on the banks of Ganga and rafting is carried out by private entrepreneurs flouting norms — the court gave the aforementioned directions.

The HC said that river rafting, paragliding are permitted even without fixing the minimum rates and display of the same by organisers. “The state government has not pointed out precisely what is the yardstick, guidelines and parameters to sanction the lease in favour of private parties on the river beds including for boating/rafting, paragliding and other water sports,” observed the bench, reports TOI.