The Nainital High Court has banned white water rafting, paragliding and other adventure sports in the state until a policy is formulated to regulate the activities. The HC placed the ban citing safety and environmental concerns. In an order on Monday (a copy of which made available on Thursday), asked the state government to come up with a transparent policy in this regard within two weeks.
The move is seen as a jolt to the tourism industry in the state. The ban was placed in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rishikesh-based social activist Hari Om Kashyap. The court cited the number of deaths every year in rafting-related accidents and said that only highly trained professionals should be permitted to conduct these activities.
The HC also said the state should not allow the use of rivers without fixing reasonable charges and inviting bids in a transparent procedure. The court emphasised the need to promote tourism but not without regulating it. Sports for pleasure cannot be allowed to end in disaster, said the bench.
Adventure sports companies have flourished in the state which has become a popular destination for adventure tourists. Whitewater rafting alone employs about 5000-7000 people in the state. The court also expressed concern over environmental issues.
“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,” said the division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh was quoted in TOI.
The PIL by Kashyap alleged private entrepreneurs have installed temporary structures along the river banks with no concern for norms and rules. “The sanctity of river Ganga is not maintained by permitting the lease of river beds. The raw sewage and other waste flow directly into the river.