As the number of paragliding flights has reached a saturation point making the airspace in Pokhara congested and unsafe, the Tourism Ministry has decided not to issue new operating permits.
The decision, taken by a recent secretary-level meeting, came into effect from Wednesday.
There are around 19 paragliding companies operating in Pokhara, while more than 35 have applied for the operating permits.
New permits have been restricted in Sarangkot, Toripani and Mandredhunga, including areas covered by the air traffic service route of Pokhara airport and its control zone within 10 nautical miles radius, the Tourism Ministry said. “The decision to stop issuing operating permits is aimed at ensuring safety,” said Suresh Acharya, joint-secretary at the ministry. However, applications submitted until August 28 seeking technical suggestions from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) will be considered in line with the recommendation of the authority. While for new companies, other alternative areas will be explored, the ministry said.
The ministry has formed a committee under the chief of Pokhara airport to regularly monitor paragliding companies. The committee has been asked to send their monitoring report to the ministry every three months.
In a bid to make the adventure sports safer, the ministry has also directed the district police office to set up a police post at every landing site. It has directed the Air Sports Association to arrange an ambulance at each such site.
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. 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. Popular season for this adventure sport among thrill seekers is September-November. However, operators said paragliding is becoming popular as an all-season activity among the visitors.
A paragliding company handles 2,500-3,000 fliers annually, and 60 percent of them are foreign visitors. One company is allowed to operate six-seven flights per day depending on the weather. More than 90 flights are conducted on Sarangkot-Toripani-Dhikikhola, which is the busiest route.