Uttarakhand Water Sports ban: Wanderlust taking a hit

With each passing day, more and more people are being bitten by the wanderlust bug, as we find our social media feeds flooded with the photographs of some of the most exotic locations across the country and the world. The power of social media is immense and works as the best form of marketing as it draws a lot of people to the places which were previously mentioned only in Nat Geo Travel magazines. Rishikesh, McLeod Gunj, Kasol, Shimla and Ladakh are a few places that pop up on your mind among the places that have gained popularity through tourism. What makes these places even popular are the USPs that each place is associated with.

Adventure sports have become a patent and trade mark at Rishikesh, while the treks, camping and hippie culture draws tourists around the world to Mcleod Gunj whereas it is every bikers dream to hop on a rusty Royal Enfield and rev up the mountains and passes in Ladakh. Economics 101 comes directly into the picture here; as is the demand, so is the supply and an increase in demand, leads to increase in supply. Just browse through the internet inquiring about white water rafting at Rishikesh, and you will land upon at least 100 adventure sports companies offering you a plethora of deals for you to choose from. A value for money deal and it draws the tourists in heaps and lots, and that when you are faced with the harsh ground reality.

Uttarakhand High Court, yesterday released an order banning all the water sports activities including white water rafting and paragliding with immediate effect until further notice. The ban has been enforced by the court citing safety and environmental concerns. From my personal account of visit to Jayalgarh, a place 50 km from Rishikesh, white water rafting should be performed only under supervision from certified professionals. While my camp organizers were highly trained professionals from premier institutes like Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, not all the adventure sports companies’ organizers and supervisors are trained from these elite institutes. There have been incidents of deaths due to capsizing only because the supervisors were amateur rafters.

As per the High Court’s statement, the government was leasing the space near the river beds to the private camp organizers for pitching the tents. This has an adverse impact on the ecology of the place as tourist activities near the river beds leads to soil erosion and pollution in the region. The High Court has given 2 weeks time to the state government to frame a policy which regulates these adventure sports activities and has asked the government to invite bids for conducting the activities in a transparent manner. Until then all the water based activities in the area are suspended, which has raised concerns among the organizers who are staring at a huge loss of revenue, with the peak tourist season about to begin.

Checkout: 5 Best Places for Water Sports in India

The above stated is just one of the places where regulation was required. If proper checks and regulations are not imposed on the bike rides to Ladakh, or camping in Himalayas or treks in Konkan and Maharashtra, they might just become the next Uttarakhand. Not ignoring the fact that tourism generates a lot of revenue for the local and state governance along with increase in the employment opportunities, the need of the hour at this very moment is the formation of regulations and governing councils to keep a check on the activities being conducted at these places.

Over and above these, it is our responsibility as tourists, not to spoil or tamper with the ecology of the place. If we want to enjoy what our beautiful country’s natural heritage has to offer, we must join hands and work towards the same.

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