SHIMLA: Unrivalled natural beauty in the majestic backdrop of the Himalayas, extreme landscapes featuring several peaks, and extensive river systems – all come together to offer an unforgettable experience of a lifetime in Himachal Pradesh. But in recent days, the thrill of adventure has lost its fizz after a spate of paragliding accidents resulting in deaths.
The charm of paragliding is slowly waning, and the government has only just woken up to reality after discovering that the tourism industry has taken a massive hit following these unfortunate incidents.
Nestled in the lap of the Himalayan ranges in Kangra district, Bir Billing has always been the perfect platform for paragliders but has recently come under the scanner after frequent accidents, placing the safety of pilots and tourists in question.
The state government has been under immense pressure to find a solution to these recurring mishaps. At least two dozen paraglider crashes have taken place in Bir Billing, not to mention such unfortunate incidents in Dharamshala, Mandi, and Manali.
Unfortunately, most crashes have taken place at Bir-Billing, considered by many as the world’s second-best paragliding spot.
After several demands put up by those in the adventure and tourism business, as well as opposition parties, and also after several tourists including foreign nationals were killed in these paragliding accidents, the government has finally taken up the situation seriously.
The Kangra administration is now all set to prepare an application through which tourists will be able to enjoy paragliding in a systematic way. An announcement in this regard was made on Tuesday by district collector Dr Nipun Jindal. A meeting between the Tourism Department and the Paragliding Association has also been arranged.
Jindal said that all paragliding operators and pilots will first have to register themselves through the mobile app. Rates for paragliding have also been fixed so tourists do not face any inconvenience. Constant monitoring of paragliding activities will also be done to ensure the safety of adventurers and tourists at all times. This monitoring also involves disallowing permission to those without registration, he said.
Among other measures are setting up a local technical committee to look into safety aspects and a separate committee on weather to guide paraglider regularly about favourable weather conditions.
It will now be mandatory to test paragliding equipment every three months, as per new orders.
A training institute will be set up in Beed to train paragliding pilots appropriately, the district collectors said, adding that no parking zones would also be earmarked at the paragliding landing site so that no untoward incidents could take place.
He further said that the development of an app for paragliding will help in the safety of tourists as well as in orderly paragliding.
While banning these activities without proper precautions taken has never been a solution, the necessity has always been to differentiate between sport and tourism, opposition leader Sudhir Sharma says.
The need to enact laws and regulate it is indeed what is now required, he argues.