POKHARA June 23- As the Pokhara Regional International airport is in the final stage of construction, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), has directed the entrepreneurs concerned to shift the popular aerial adventure sport, paragliding, to some other place from January. According to the authorities, it is not possible for civil flights and paragliding to take place in the same sky at the same time.
Tourism entrepreneurs said they are not ready to accept this and wish they could continue flying in the sky of Pokhara.
Currently, paragliders take off from Sarangkot and land on the shores of Phewa lake. Toripani and Mandhredhunga, near Sarangkot, are also paragliding spots. According to the entrepreneurs, the tourism sector will have adverse effects if the paragliding spot is changed.
Airports are also important for the tourism sector, still paragliding should be kept in Pokhara, said the entrepreneurs. Displacing paragliding from Pokhara will have negative impacts on employment, income and investment in the tourism sector in the Pokhara Valley, they added.
“Paragliding is a strong way to protect the tourism sector in times of crisis and it should not be displaced from Pokhara but should be managed," said the entrepreneurs.
In Pokhara, paragliding first commenced in 1996. Pilot Rajesh Bamjan, who started paragliding in Pokhara, says, “Paragliding is the backbone of not only Pokhara but the entire tourism sector. If paragliding cannot be saved, it will kill not only Pokhara but also Pokhara's tourism business. Tourism here will not survive.
During the coronavirus pandemic when tourism was adversely affected, paragliding helped in reviving it. “Paragliding has a role to play in protecting Lakeside tourism. In difficult times, paragliding has benefited the tourism sector of Pokhara by attracting visitors,” said Bamjan, “So, there is no alternative to managing paragliding in Pokhara itself.”'
According to Bamjan, most of the Chinese tourists come to Pokhara for paragliding. Paragliding is also popular among tourists who stay in Pokhara for a certain period of time. According to Bamjan, a foreign pilot will stay in the Pokhara skies for two weeks to two months solely for paragliding. “Those pilots travel to Pokhara only for the sake of flying. They would not come if paragliding is displaced from Pokhara,” he added.
Tourism entrepreneurs say that a way out has to be found so that both paragliding and civil flights can take place in the same sky. They say it is obvious that if paragliding is shifted to another destination from Pokhara, then that destination will have to be promoted. However, if the tourists that visit the place do not get the required facilities, the tourism sector will itself be in trouble. Bamjan said, “Hotels, favorable weather, and other facilities may not be available in new places. This will affect paragliding as well."
Bamjan who has lots of experience is paragliding, said, depending on the weather it is suitable to fly for the whole year in Sarangkot. Tourists might not get the services they get in Pokhara. According to him, the environmental conditions required for paragliding have been created in Sarangkot due to the Phewa Lake. However, that is not the case in Toripani and Mandredhunga near Sarangkot. He said that if the paragliding in the skies of Pokhara could be managed in a more systematic way, the state would benefit from it. "The responsibility of protecting paragliding lies not only with the Pokhara businessmen but also with the state
Krishna Bhandari, president of Nepal Air Sports Association, an umbrella organization of paragliding entrepreneurs, says that Pokhara is the third most popular among the top five destinations for paragliding in the world. He added, “For the sustainability of Pokhara's new airport, it is also necessary to protect paragliding here.”