Two paragliders glide in Pokhara’s sky in this file photo.
POKHARA, Feb 4: Pilot Michael Peter Plamchapd of United Kingdom had an accident while paragliding in Pokara recently. The very next day of the accident he succumbed to injuries. Later, it was revealed that he had not even taken permit for paragliding.
Thursday, another accident took place as Timolapio Rissanen of Finland lost balance of the parachute. The 45-year-old pilot who was severely injured has been air lifted to Kathmandu for treatment.
These are recent cases of mishaps related to the very popular paragliding world of Sarangkot. Stakeholder state that paragliding is killing foreigners because of their negligence and the entire paragliding business if paying the price.
Nepali and foreigner pilots can paraglide after acquiring permission from the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority (CAAN). However, some foreigners do not take the license issue seriously. Even some with license are also found to have exhibited negligence and high handedness while flying, Nepal Air Sports Association official claims.
Vice president of the association Sobhit Baniya opined that foreign pilot paraglide as they please that in most cases lead to accidents. “In just few years, half a dozen of pilots have lost their lives due to haphazard paragliding. They are simply not disciplined,” he said. “Now, it’s getting just out of control.”
Baniya suggested that the license issuing process should be made stricter along with putting restraints on allowing solo flights. “Granting license easily and on top of that allowing solo paragliding has seriously affected the sport’s popularity and safety records,” he said. “We must be able to make this sport safer and more professional.”
He informed that the Sarangkot and Toripani area are open for professional paragliding while the Mandredunga area has been fixed for solo paragliding. However, he claimed, foreigners do not follow these rules. “They have to be in Mandredunga for solo paragliding. But they flaunt this rule.”
He blamed CAAN of exhibiting gross negligence in implementing safety and other regulations. If CAAN cannot ensure the implementation of safety and other regulations, it should handover the responsibility to another government body that can, he asserted.
“This sector has been becoming messy. How long will it have to endure all this? If CAAN not ensure discipline, it must hand over the responsibility to others,” maintained Baniya.
Elaborating on factors behind accidents of foreign paragliders, he alluded to their unfamiliarity with Pokhara’s sky. “They easily get permit letter from the CIAA and head out to Sarangkot to paraglide. They hardly know from where to take off, where to land, how to fly in the sky,” he said adding, “Then, no wonder, they easily meet with accident.”
Foreigners get fascinated with paragliding thinking that they can watch the breath taking beauty of Pokhara through their own flight in the sky. But things do not turn out to as they expect. “They want to get lost into nature. But the dream is dashed as they do not have adequate knowledge of Pokhara’s sky and paragliding,” he elaborated.
He expressed concern that such recklessness has tarnished the image of the entire paragliding business. Pokhara chief of CAAN, Bhola Prasad Guragain admitted that their inability to discipline foreigners has been indeed defaming the paragliding business. “It has actually been a loss to the entire tourism sector. Foreigners move as they please, we have been not able to control them so far,” he said.
He informed that permit card for paragliding is issued for Rs 5000 to foreigners. However, he said, that not all foreign paragliding enthusiasts acquire permission to fly. “Considering the experience in dealing with this industry, we feel the need of a dedicated agency to regulate this sector.” Around five dozens companies in Pokhara are involved in the paragliding business.