A network of helicopter services and breathtaking scenic beauty is the combo that Uttarkhand government hopes will help it wean away the high end foreign tourists and Bollywood film makers headed to Nepal.
The nascent hill state will have a functional chopper service within a year. Thirty seven heli-zones have been identified in picturesque and idyllic locations, to ferry tourists. "We have more to offer than Nepal," said PC Sharma, principal secretary, Civil Aviation and Industrial Development. The move will also help the state attract Bollywood film makers, he said.
“Apart from tourist destinations, heli-zones will also be developed at the famous Char Dhams—Badri Nath, Kedar Nath, Yamnotri and Gangotri,” Sharma said.
“This initiative is being taken so that tourist destinations in the state as well as the famous Char Dhams can be connected with a network of helicopter services to make them accessible to high-end tourists,” he explained.
"Out of the total 37 places likely to be connected with helicopter services the scenic spot of Pithoragarh would be the most easily accessible to filmmakers’’, Sharma said adding, "Film crews, especially, would find it easily approachable because we are expanding the Naini Saini runway in Pithorgarh (Kumaon) so as to accommodate even 50-seater helicopters.
"The Naini Saini runway had long been made operational like the helipads at Gauchar and Chiniali Saur (Garhwal) where small-sized helicopters can land.’’
Among the Char Dhams, Kedarnath has two helipads where Pawan Hans, has long been offering helicopter service, he said work has to begin in Kedarnath area.
In Gangotri, too, a helipad had been set up. Other places where the helipads would come up are Khasauni village (Yamnotri) on a small island surrounded by a river, Ghagharia, eight km short of Joshimath, which will cater to the Sikh devotees who visit Hemkund Sahib.