The Uttarakhand High Court’s ruling banning camping in high altitude meadows and banning night stay has hit the tourism industry of Uttarakhand badly.
Without camping and night stay facilities, trekking activities are likely to get affected in a big way, as there are not many trekking destination which can be completed in few hours. The Uttarakhand government is now preparing to appeal against the HC judgment in the Supreme Court.
Many tour operators are struggling as they had booked trekking groups in advance. They are confused about what to do next. According to a study of the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI), the ban will affect two lakh people directly and indirectly and result in a revenue loss of Rs 533 crore. The ATOAI is a national body comprising more than 500 members from across the country and abroad, actively promoting adventure and eco-tourism in India.
The Uttarakhand High Court in its 21 August judgment had asked the state government to remove all permanent structure, encroachments and limit entry of tourists in high altitude pastures.
Passing a judgment on a public interest litigation filed by Aali-Bedini-Bagzi Bugyal Sanrakshan Samiti, the court banned night stay of tourists in meadows, limited the number to 200 tourists per day and also ordered discontinuing commercial grazing of cattle. ATOAI said scientific research should have been conducted before imposing such restrictions.
ATOAI’s treasurer Vaibhav Kala said, “Moreover, these (judgments) are not backed by data, scientific research, or instituted studies to determine the impact, benefit or damages; which would lead to a measured debate before reaching a conclusive decision.”
It is estimated that about two lakh tourists come to Uttarakhand for trekking annually and the court restriction will adversely affect over 2000 tour operators. As the arrival of foreign tourists increases after mid September, many adventure companies are flooded with queries of tourists who had booked trips through them.
The trekking season starts from early April and concludes by mid-November. If night stay is not allowed on meadows, nobody will be able to undertake the multi-day trek to Roopkund, Kalandi Khal, Kwari pass, Tapovan, Pindari glacier, etc. Sources in Uttarakhand Tourism Department indicate that the department is all set to approach the Supreme Court.