Uttarakhand HC bans river rafting and other water sports in state, says safety and health of environment needs to be priority
A division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma, Lokpal Singh in Uttarakhand directed the state government to prepare a transparent policy, to regulate adventure sports in the state.
The Uttarakhand High Court has banned white water rafting and paragliding until the state government frames a policy on adventure sports, in a move to protect the environment as well as people engaging in these activities.
Underlining the need to regulate adventure sports, a division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lokpal Singh in a recent order directed the state government to prepare a transparent policy within two weeks.
Till such a policy is framed, no paragliding, white water rafting and other water sports shall be permitted in the state, the court said.
"We have also gone through the photographs. We can see people organising picnics by the river. They can be seen drinking the river water. The sanctity of the river Ganga is not maintained by the respondent state by permitting the lease of river beds," the court order said, as reported by Hindustan Times.
The court order came following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rishikesh-based social activist Hari Om Kashyap, the Hindustan Times report added. The PIL alleged that illegal leases were being issued to private parties to set up temporary structures on the Ganga riverbed. Private entrepreneurs conducted river rafting without any legal sanction, the petitioner argued.
However, former Rafting Association of Uttarakhand president Devendra Rawat said river rafting has generated jobs for about 40,000 people, almost ending migration from many areas along the Ganga in the state's Tehri and Pauri districts. A ban on rafting will lead to more people migrating from the state, he warned.
There are 281 companies involved in the rafting trade, together owning 600 rafts and transacting business worth over Rs 20 crore every season, which lasts nine months from October to June, he said.
And though he denied knowledge of the high court's order, Rawat said any ban would affect thousands of people associated with the trade.
Asked about the alleged violation of guidelines by raft operators, Rawat said they follow the Rafting Policy 2014. "If the policy is revised and implemented, which is something only the state government can do, that will also be adhered to by people associated with the trade."
However, others in the business felt that a ban lasting a few weeks from now would not have much effect as the season is nearing its end on 30 June.
With inputs from PTI.
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