Uttarakhand News

OPINION: Why High Court decision to ban Rafting in Uttarakhand is Godsent

Past week Uttarakhand high court banned paragliding, white water rafting and other water sport activities throughout the hill state, until the administration puts in place a policy to regulate the activities on the rivers which would safeguard the environment and people employed in these adventure sports activities. The Uttarakhand government is given a 2-week ultimatum to formulate a policy that would regulate the rafting and other adventure sports in the hill state. Until a transparent policy is framed, the rafting and other adventure sports will remain banned in Uttarakhand.

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While many would feel this decision would adversely affect the livelihood of thousands of people who are involved in the adventure tourism industry, the High Court decision was long time coming. The reckless and rampant destruction of river ecology can be credited to the the haphazard operation of rafting operators, especially along the 35-km stretch of the Ganga near Rishikesh. With no proper policy in place to prosecute the perpetrators, many operators have been caught flouting the norms to maximize their profit. For example, on weekends, the whole stretch is filled with thousands of rafts.

One has to keep in mind that rafting is a serious sport. Any carelessness from the rafting operators’ end could result in death.┬áThe High Court believes paragliding and water sports are serious sports which could become dangerous if not regulated properly. Therefore, in the absence of any transparent policy to regulate these potentially dangerous sports, tourists are risking their lives just to get the cheapest deal available.

After the High Court order, the onus is on the Uttarakhand governmnet to formulate an effective and transparent policy that would safeguard the environment and people employed in these adventure sports activities. The mere fact that High Court and NGT have to step in to save Ganga implies government’s laidback attitude towards Ganga rejuvenation. The government has to understand that adventure tourism industry could be a major contributor in the Uttarakhand’s GDP in years to come. Therefore, having a robust and fair policy right know would serve as the benchmark for other tourism opportunities in future.