POKHARA, Oct 18: In the second week of December 2020, Raju Gaire, 38, died in a paragliding accident in Pokhara. Even before Raju, there were occasional paragliding accidents in the skies of Pokhara, but all of them were solo or trainee accidents. However, Raju had an accident during a tandem (passenger) flight, which was the first incident in which a pilot died in a tandem flight accident.
After Raju's accident, a lot of questions were raised about paragliding in the sky of Pokhara. The pilot was also criticized for picking flowers and leaves and touching the water of Fewa Lake to make the passengers happy, entertain them and give an adventurous experience. Not only that, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) also took action against the pilot who was doing unnatural activities at that time. After the accident of the tandem flight, some restrictions were imposed on paragliding.
Another human casualty occurred in paragliding on October 16, Sunday. Nisim Thapa, a player from the Tribhuvan Army Club, died in a paragliding accident amid the 9th National Games going on in Pokhara. Soon after taking off from Sarangkot, Thapa crashed onto the ground. He died on the spot.
After Thapa's death, CAAN, the regulatory body of Nepal's airspace, immediately decided to ban paragliding until further notice. CAAN Spokesperson Jagannath Niraula said that due to Sunday's accident, paragliding has been suspended to study the existing laws and regulations until further arrangement. After studying the current incident, a decision will be made as to how to operate the flight," he said.
Tourism entrepreneurs consider the sudden suspension of paragliding to be a hasty decision by the authorities. Krishna Bhandari, president of Nepal Air Sports Association (NAA), an umbrella organization of paragliding entrepreneurs, says that the authority imposed the suspension creating inconvenience to them during the tourist season although business and sports are different.
“CAAN regulates paragliding. The National Sports Council regulates sports. It is a crude decision to shut down businesses in the entire country when there is an accident during sports," he said. "We are saddened by the accident and human loss. However, it is not appropriate to shut the business because of the incident in sports.
He added that although the state has invested a lot in the field of sports, considering paragliding as a sport, the state's investment in this field is zero. He said that the businessmen paid money and helped by giving the takeoff and landing spot made for the business for the use of the sports field. The state has invested heavily in other sports, but the state that considers paragliding as a sport has not helped to build infrastructure. Instead, we have helped, but now the business has been closed," he said. "It was a hasty decision to close the business as soon as the incident happened in the sports field."
He said that business should not be killed at someone's expense. Now is the tourist season. At this time, there were about 400 flights a day in the sky of Pokhara. He said that the tourism business, which was affected by Covid-19 for two and a half years, has been affected even more since it started running on its own. "Paragliding has been banned without explaining the reason and without justification. Nepal Airsports Association has been given the authority to regulate, approve pilot activities, impose penalties, fines, and test equipment. We would have taken action, if necessary. But there was an accident during a sports competition and we have to bear the brunt of that.”