The Uttarakhand High Court concerning safety and environmental concerns has banned water sports, paragliding, and white water rafting in the state. However, the order has come with a huge shock in the peak season for the tourism industry.
The court further said in an order that was made available on Thursday that they are shocked on the state governments decision to permit camping sites on the river beds. It is a big reason behind polluting the environment and ecology of the river, and also damaging the surrounding areas.
However, within two weeks, the state government is commanded to prepare the transparent policy. No paragliding, water river rafting, or any other water sports is allowed in the state of Uttarakhand till the policy is framed, said the orders.
The court has also taken into note the deaths which take place every year by rafting due to the capsizing of the rafts. In Uttarakhand, white water rafting is valued at ₹70-80 crores yearly. Moreover, it employs around 10,000 people in areas like drivers, cooks, instructors, and guides.
Not only this, but the court also discussed another happening adventure sport- paragliding. This sport is widespread in Himachal Pradesh and held in Nainital district in Uttarakhand. In Nainital, nine operators provide food to nearly 300-500 guests per day, and since 1992, paragliding has been going on in this town.
In the early 1980s, rafting started in Rishikesh and became a huge business by 2013. According to rough estimates, 2 to 3 lakh people come for rafting every season. However, there are no exact figures, but rafting is discontinued from July to September. The white water rafting industry is fixed at earning of around ₹75-80 crore per year.
The competition among different operators is very hard; as there are over 300 rafting operators on the 36-km Kaudiyala-Rishikesh belt. There are around 1000 rafts for the tourists, and each raft can carry 7 to 8 people. Sometimes, guests are attracted by offering as low as 500 per head for rafting.
According to Hari Om Kashyap, a Rishikesh-based petitioner, in the absence of any law, temporary structures are permitted to be established on the river banks for the rafting to be carried out by private companies. There have also been many allegations regarding the security of rafters; as in the mad rush to make money, rafters security is often compromised. In January this year, a tourist died of drowning in Ganga while rafting. Moreover, last year in May, a tourist from Delhi died while rafting. The court has mentioned many cases of people dying doing rafting.
Rafters prefer camping along the river surrounded by rich green hilly forests in the background. They also use vehicles to carry their rafts into the water. It’s been observed by the experts that erosion of river bed has become very common because of this and also traffic congestion along the river.