‘Ban on high-altitude night stay to cause Rs 533 cr loss to Uttarakhand’

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New Delhi, Sep 7 (IANS) Uttarakhand is expected to incur a loss of Rs 533 crore this year as people dependent on trekking activities for livelihood have been rendered unemployed after the Uttarakhand High Court put a ban on night stays in high-altitude meadows last month, the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) said on Friday.

The Court also ordered the removal of permanent structures at high-altitude meadows and limiting the number of tourists visiting there.

In a release, it said “the blanket ban” on above-treeline trekking in the state would affect lakhs of stakeholders that included not just the trek operators and companies but guides, cooks, helpers, porters and kachcharwallas (mule owners), dhaba hotel owners, taxi owners, drivers and shopkeepers as well.

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ATOAI President Swadesh Kumar said the “knee jerk reaction” on this matter was harming the entire tourism industry in the state.

“We appreciate the decision by the High Court to stop permanent construction in the affected areas. However, I feel that restrictions on the number of people visiting the state for trekking activities should be implemented and not be banned,” the release quoted Kumar as saying.

The ATOAI said about two lakh trekkers visit the state every year and there are 2,000 companies with each employing four persons on an average. It said it supported penalising rampant defaulters but the livelihood of thousands must not be compromised due to the folly of a few.

Akshay Kumar, former President of ATOAI, said the industry recognised the need for regulation and control but it did not support the “ban culture” in the state.

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“The need of the hour is to make sustainable policies for all adventure sports and fine defaulters. These trekking routes and bugyals have formed the backbone of local economy for generations. We have to reinstate operations here with maximum regulation to ensure protection of our Himalayas and its treasures,” Akshay Kumar said.

The industry and state government are required to join hands to ensure immediate resumption of trekking activities, he added.

–IANS

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