River rafting and camping operators in Uttarakhand demand distribution of sites
Camping and river rafting operators in Rishikesh on Wednesday said the state government should distribute beach sites along the 36 km stretch of the Ganga from Rishikesh to Kaudiyaladehradun Updated: May 31, 2017 20:57 IST
Camping and river rafting operators in Rishikesh on Wednesday said the state government should distribute beach sites along the 36 km stretch of the Ganga from Rishikesh to Kaudiyala.
Camping activities along the Ganga were suspended since the last two years following an order of the National Green Tribunal.
In March, the green panel permitted camping activities in 25 sites outside the 100m radius from the middle of the river.
At a conference in Dehradun, Devender Rawat, president of the state tourism outfitters association, said despite lifting the ban, the state government is yet to give them a go ahead to run their services.
“The NGT lifted the ban but the government is still clueless on how to distribute the camping sites,” he said.
“Officials say an auction will be held, which will mean that industrialists from other cities will outbid local operators.”
The association has alleged that the BJP-led state government beliefs in the auction system that they have followed while distributing liquor and mining permits but camping and rafting activities, are a different game altogether, they said.
“It’s been more than 30 years since locals have developed Shivpuri as the rafting hub of the country and the government is clueless on how to distribute camping sites,” said Dinesh Kathait, general secretary of the association.
“We have suggested involving us in meetings and plans so that we can share insights on how to run these services. Auction will mean a loss of livelihood for thousands of locals,” he said.
Public interest litigation was filed by the Social Action for Forests and Environment, a non-for profit organization before the green bench in 2015, saying that the Ganga was being polluted due to camping and rafting activities.
The Wildlife Institute of India that was roped in to conduct a study, recommended only 25 sites were fit for the camping and rafting activities.
On March 2, the green tribunal said that there were 33 sites along the river bank out of which eight were in the restricted zone while three were found suitable for camping and rafting activities, 22 others were found to be partially within the radius of the banned area.
The association said there are 269 rafting and 120 camping operators in the state. These operators provide employment to more than 10,000 locals. Due to the delay in the decision of the government on how to start the services, these people are unemployed.
They also demanded that entertainment tax levied on operators should in under adventure tourism. For this too the government shall consult the association.
To check illegal rafting activities, a committee was constituted under the chairmanship of the district magistrate to ensure check on such activities.
R Meenakshi Sundaram, secretary tourism said: “I will meet the chief secretary on the issue soon.’
“I am sure we will be able to resolve it,” she told HT.