The Tourism Ministry has issued licences to 22 new paragliding companies for the Toripani and Mandredhunga airspaces in Pokhara while the applications of a dozen other companies are being evaluated.
There are 22 paragliding companies presently operating in Sarangkot, and the entry of the new operators will take up their number in Pokhara to at least 55. The newly approved paragliding operators had applied
before August 28, 2014. The government has not considered the applications received after that date.
The Tourism Ministry had stopped issuing new operating permits in September last year explaining that the number of paragliding flights had reached saturation point, making the airspace over Pokhara congested and unsafe. New permits were denied at Sarangkot, Toripani and Mandredhunga including areas in the flight path of Pokhara airport and its control zone within a 10 nautical mile radius.
Tourism Joint Secretary Suresh Acharya said that alternative areas would be explored for companies that had applied for permits after August 28.
Meanwhile, paragliding has started gaining popularity in other parts of the country too. According to Acharya, the ministry has received a number of applications from potential operators outside Pokhara.
The ministry has received three applications from operators in Bhedetar, Dhankuta and one each from Palungtar and Bandipur. A new paragliding company in Surkhet has been approved, while another company in Lapsiphedi, Kathmandu has begun operations.
In a bid to make the adventure sport safer, the ministry has directed the district police office to set up police posts at all landing zones. It has also told the Air Sports Association to provide an ambulance at each site. The ministry has formed a committee under the chief of Pokhara airport to monitor paragliding companies regularly. The committee has been asked to send its monitoring report to the ministry every three months.
Aerial sports began in Nepal in 1996 with Sunrise Balloon and Avia Club offering hot air ballooning and ultra light flying respectively. Paragliding started to take off in 2007.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) charges $1,280 (excluding taxes) to issue an Air Operators Certificate and $56.50 per flier as flight permission fee. The permit is valid for 15 days.
The popular season for participating in this adventure sport is September-December. However, operators said paragliding was becoming popular as an all-season activity among thrill seekers.
The ministry’s statistics show that there were 6,548 flyers in Pokhara in 2013. Out of them, 4,138 were foreign
visitors. One company is allowed to operate six-seven flights per day depending on the weather. The Sarangkot-Toripani-Dhiki Khola is the busiest route. Similarly, there were 12,082 ultra light flyers in Pokhara in 2013, the ministry said.