After months of planning and anticipation, I somehow managed to convince my friends last weekend to join me on a trip to Haridwar-Rishikesh for river-rafting. However, the moment we reached Rishikesh, all our enthusiasm was washed away because a Uttarakhand High Court order banned white water rafting and paragliding in the state.
We found more groups of tourists who were going through same turmoil and wondering, “What should we do in Rishikesh now?”
I am not questioning the high court’s order but it is a big blow to adventure sports enthusiasts like me and to those who were employed in the rafting business.
I have been going to Rishikesh every summer for the last six years, but this time, it was the dullest affair ever. All those like me, who came here to put their valour to a test and get a dose of adventure to escape their daily mundane routine, were left disappointed.
The stretch from Shivpuri to Rishikesh, which was once the epicentre of white water rafting, turned so slack that even the Ganga seemed lagging.
Earlier, you couldn’t pass through the markets around Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula without getting heckled by few shopkeepers. But now, most shops had their shutters down. I asked a shopkeeper named Mohan Patewal, “Any scene of rafting?”
We cannot even take out the boats in Ganga, so how can we take you rafting. The high court has done a huge injustice to us. This was our only source of income.Rishikesh Shopkeeper
The Uttarakhand High Court’s decision was aimed at keeping the Ganga clean and protecting the environment around it. Even I have seen tourists using rafting as a front to consume alcohol on the sides of the river and then polluting it.
However, apart from people working in adventure sports business, the HC order will also affect the state government’s revenue from tourism. Nearly 300 licenses were provided for rafting in Rishikesh and in summers nearly 450 boats were seen cruising in Ganga.
In Tehri and Pauri Garhwal, several people got work in the rafting business and their migration to bigger cities stopped. However, that is likely to change now.
Ball Now in Government’s Court
Now, it is all up to the Trivendra Singh Rawat-led BJP government to decide the future of rafting in Uttarakhand. The high court stated that the order isn’t permanent, but until the government comes up with an eco-friendly policy, it will remain in place.
“The state government is directed to prepare a transparent policy within a period of two weeks. Till the policy is framed, no white river rafting, paragliding and other water sports shall be permitted in Uttarakhand,” the order read.
(This article was originally published in Hindi Quint.)
(Translated by Aradhya Agnihotri.)