The Honorable High Court of Uttarakhand recently passed a judgment in response to a PIL filed by the Aali-Bedini-Bagzi Bugyal Sanrakshan Samiti against the State of Uttarakhand and others, banning trekking in the state. Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) throws light on this blanket ban, read on to know more.
When team LBO spoke to representatives of ATOAI, they said, “ATOAI takes cognizance of the judgment; however; rampant litigation is leading to rhetorical judgments without the State, stakeholders, and associations being made party to such arguments. As a result, these PIL’s and subsequent judgments are not only affecting the socio-economic health of people of Uttarakhand but also to the reputation of tourism of the state of Uttarakhand. Moreover, these are not backed by data, scientific research, or instituted studies to determine the impact, benefit or damages; which would lead to a measured debate before reaching a conclusive decision.
The blanket ban on above-treeline trekking in Uttarakhand affects the lives of lakhs of stakeholders who depend on trekking tourism. It is not just the trek operators and companies that suffer but also guides, cooks, helpers, porters and kachcharwallas (mule owners), dhaba owners, owners of hotels and small home stays, inns, taxi owners and drivers, shopkeepers and so on. These are everyday citizens of the State and a State that has the honour of being one of the front runners in home grown entrepreneurship. We support penalising rampant defaulters, however, the livelihoods of thousands must not be compromised due to the folly of a few.
Mr. Swadesh Kumar, President ATOAI says, “This knee jerk reaction on this matter is harming the entire tourism industry in Uttarakhand.
We appreciate the decision by the honourable high court to stop permanent construction in the affected areas. However, I feel, that restrictions on the number of people visiting the state for trekking activities should be implemented and not banned.”
Another aspect of this ban is how it affects the sport of mountaineering. Uttarakhand has a long and proud tradition of mountaineering and the state boasts the highest number of Everesters and climbers who have been recognized and awarded, not just by the nation but also internationally. “No mountain in our state can be climbed without camping in a Bugyal, this ban puts a complete stop to the sport of mountaineering in our state. What are we going to tell the youth and future climbers of our country who graduate from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand? That you can learn to climb but you can never climb at home, that your state does not permit this sport.” Kumar said.
Mr. Akshay Kumar, immediate Past President, ATOAI, said “It is unfortunate that because of a few companies promoting mass tourism, the entire trekking activity in Uttarakhand has been banned.
While the industry recognizes the need for regulation and control, we do not support this ‘BAN CULTURE’ in the state.
The need of the hour is to make sustainable policies for all adventure sports and fine defaulters. These trekking routes and Bugyals have formed the backbone of the local economy for generations. We have to reinstate operations here with maximum regulation to ensure the protection of our Himalayas and its treasures. The industry and state government need to join hands to ensure the immediate opening of trekking activities.”
We need regulation in trekking but these rampant blanket bans that have emerged recently in the state against adventure activities is more detrimental to our people than it is helpful.
The Adventure Tour Operators Association of India was founded in 1994 with a handful of members from the adventure tourism industry. It is now a national body comprising of more than 500 members from across the country and abroad, actively promoting adventure and eco-tourism in India. The association was founded with an aim to create awareness about the immense potential for adventure tourism in India and to harness this potential in a safe, sensitive and environment-friendly manner.