As tour operators of Uttarakhand struggle to come to terms with a recent court order banning water sports in the state, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat assured them of protecting their interests, even as all district magistrates were asked to implement the ban in their areas.
"All aspects of the high court order regarding the ban on adventure tourism activities are being studied. The next step will be taken after that. The interests of entrepreneurs associated with the trade will be protected," he said in a statement here.
Rawat also directed the tourism secretary to look into all legal options available in the case and take appropriate action.
He said effective steps were being taken by the state government to promote adventure tourism, "which is crucial to tourism in Uttarakhand".
Keeping in view the interests of the people involved in the trade, the chief minister said Uttarakhand Rafting, Kayaking Manual has been framed, adding that manuals for paragliding and other adventure tourism activities would be prepared soon.
He said a comprehensive policy would be prepared to further promote the industry so that it strengthened the economy of the state.
Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Dilip Jawalkar today wrote to all district magistrates, asking them to strictly implement the high court order in their respective areas.
The Uttarakhand High Court, had on June 18, put a ban on white water river rafting, other water sports and paragliding across the state till a transparent policy was framed by the state government on adventure sports, giving the latter two weeks' time for the purpose.
Devendra Rawat, former president of Rafting Association of Uttarakhand, said the ban would affect 40,000 people associated with the trade.
A total of 281 companies are associated with the rafting trade, which together own 600 rafts and transact business worth over Rs 20 crore every season. The season lasts nine months from October to June, he said.
With the ban coming at the peak of the season, there will be heavy losses, he said.
Vaibhav Kala, director, Aquaterra Adventures said majority of outfits cannot be penalised for the errors of a few.
"Rafting is currently being regulated under a Rafting Act passed by the Uttarakhand government. There is a technical and regulatory committee that grants permits and proper rafting rules are framed to ensure compliance," he said.
"Regulation, of course, has been a challenge, but that needs to be checked stringently by the authorities concerned. Majority of outfits cannot be penalised for the errors of a few," Kala said, adding that "rhetorical judgements" like this would harm the country's travel industry.
Kala said the state needs to weed out outfits that do not meet the global benchmark. "We will lose many bookings in the last week. The industry losses for a week should be around Rs 4-5 crore," he said.