KATHMANDU, July 24: A few days ago, Bimal Pahari, president of Nepal Paragliding Pilot Club, expressed his grievances at a formal event. His complaint was, “We pilots and businessmen are to blame for the removal of paragliding from the skies of Pokhara, which has been there in the city for almost two and a half decades.”
As expressed by pilot Pahari, there have been problems with paragliding in Pokhara. Those in the business say that since these problems were not resolved on time, this has led to a circumstance where paragliding has had to be disallowed in the skies of Pokhara.
The international airport of the city will come into operation from the 1st of January, 2023. Since paragliding would increase the risks of flight disturbances, the authorities have asked for paragliding to be shifted elsewhere. Although the authorities have not sent a formal letter asking for paragliding to be moved somewhere else, high officials have said that the skies of Pokhara should be cleared before January 1.
Following the verbal instructions of the authority’s top officials, pilots and businessmen in the paragliding businesses have commented that due to their own faults, paragliding has been displaced from Pokhara forever. Pahari, says, “Since businessmen and some pilots have not been disciplined, the authorities are trying to shift paragliding elsewhere. We must improve ourselves. We made a lot of mistakes in the last two years.” He said that if there had been improvements in the last two years, the authorities would have allowed paragliding in the skies of Pokhara.
“As many as 1,200 flights would happen in one day. About 40,000 passengers would fly in a month following the first phase of the lockdown in the country. Domestic tourists took more interest after COVID-19 but it was more disorganized after that,” he said. He said that businesses in paragliding grew selfish and did not cooperate with each other. According to him, the pilots and businessmen in the paragliding business did as they liked during this period.
“We made arbitrary flight fares,” he mentioned. “The pilots flew beyond the designated sky. Businessmen focused more on flying rather than prioritizing management.” He said that the businesses and the pilots have emphasized more on collecting money. “The companies made bookings and flights from wherever they could. Problems arose when the pilots picked up passengers and flew them wherever they found them.”
There have been instances of the death of pilots while paragliding in Pokhara. Accidents occurred while the pilots tried picking flowers and giving them to the passengers during the flights. Apart from that, there was a lot of criticism for performing activities such as touching the water of the lake and picking leaves which increased the risk of accidents during the flights. After which actions were taken against some pilots.
According to him, there are still some companies and pilots that have not given a thought to the current circumstances. He said that even when the regulatory body occasionally pointed fingers at the pilot's whims, they were not sensitive to them. “High-ranking officials in the authority showed us the airport and told us to restrain ourselves, but we took it lightly,” he said.
Pahari says that if the businesses had worked cooperatively in the last two years, the regulatory bodies would have been forced to continue allowing paragliding in Pokhara.
Not only the pilots but also the businessmen admit that the situation occurred because of enough weakness on their part. “In the last two years, we have not improved; the businessmen and pilots themselves have not improved. Even when there were accidents, we pointed out each other’s faults.”
Sobhit Baniya, Vice-president of Nepal Paragliding Pilot Club, says that there were plenty of problems in the paragliding sector. “The businessmen and pilots tried to cover these problems as much as they could. We also tried hiding the accidents that would occur during the flights. Because we tried covering up so much, there has been a lack of trust in us,” he said.
“The authorities had also given us the right to take action against those who violate the rules, but we did not bother to monitor,” he added. He says that the business in the sector has thrown an axe at their own feet.