Illegal Paragliding goes unchecked at Solang, Manali

Manali: One has always dream’t of flying like a free bird and to satisfy the desire various inventions have been tried over the generations but none can match the experience of a ride on a Para glider.

Adventure of Paragliding

Off late, Solang Valley at Manali has become synonymous with adventure sports in general and Paragliding in particular.

Talking to Hill Post, Balbir Thakur ,SDM cum District Tourism Development Officer Manali, said that in 2011, there were five companies employing 55 pilots registered with Himachal Tourism and this year 11 companies with 83 pilots have applied for licences.

To ensure the safety of the tourists, surprise checks are done by tourism authorities to see whether ambulances have been deployed for fast intervention during accidents.

However, a visit to Solang Valley brings out that ground realities are totally different.

While the number of licensed pilots last year were only 55 and there were about 83 applicants this year but in Solang Valley more than 150 people are engaged in providing paragliding joy rides to tourists.

Whats worse, majority of these unqualified pilots do not have proper training and hold no knowledge about the thermodynamics of a flying area leave aside the wind conditions rendering the valley extremely prone to accidents.

Ajay Kumar, a champion Para Pilot from Haripur village in Manali, who runs one of the biggest Paragliding Schools in India says “due to the excellent geographical location, the adventure sport is flourishing in Solang Valley.”

About 150 Para Pilots are operating on Solang Slopes and they generate a revenue of more than 2 crores annually, he claimed.

In the last few years Himachal Pradesh has become the hub of commercial Paragliding in India, though the adventure sport is also available at Kamshet in Maharashtra, Goa, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu.

Due to it’s strategic location and excellent thermodynamics available, Bir Billing in Kangra and Solang Valley in Kullu district has emerged as one of the best spots for commercial as well as cross country flying.

At Solang, tourists do enjoy Short/Medium and High Flights varying between 1-15 minutes, he added.

Cautioning about increasing risks of para gliding accidents, he said such accidents are mostly a result of a combination of pilot error, and poor flying conditions.

Given the risks involved, para pilots let Hill Post know that to maintain safety standards and not allow unqualified people conduct the sport, technically qualified persons should be deployed to monitor the adventure activity in Solang.

Photo: Sanjay Dutta

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

7 Comments

  • Paragliding at Solang is truly a heavenly experience but,well said that if the government machinery don’t wake up early there is very thin line between Heaven and Hell!!!
    There are many un-authorized people risking theirs as well as tourists lives and bringing bad name to Manali tourism!!!
    Jago Government Jago!!!!

  • the pic above is a fake one as it can be clearly seen in the background that the ranges are dhauladhar and not Pirpanjal…….though the article is an eyeopener,,,kudos to the reporter but while writing such articles some botheration should be taken into the authencity of aesthtics as it can make mockery of the serious issue …..

  • ashish jee,aapki geography theek karne ke liye..yeh na to Dhauladhar hai aur na hi Pir Panjal ranges hain..the backdrop is Annapurna range in Nepal!!!!
    The Pilot (Ajay Kumar) is 3 times Champion in Pre-World Cup(Indian Open) and 2 tImes Champion of Nepal Open and 1 time Champion in Acro Championship Nepal..
    In winters he stays at Pokhara Nepal for 4-5 months..
    How i know this???(He is my good friend)..
    Par mere bhai,photu pe matt ja, message paddo:-)))))

  • Sholang is a beautiful valley in Manali, and it is certainly true that due to its excellent geographical location, the adventure sport is flourishing in the valley. I like paragliding a lot, and have done it many times. I know how much risky it would be if the pilot is not certified and proficient. It is really appalling that so many unqualified people are engaged in providing paragliding joy rides to tourists. Authorities should take stringent actions against those who allow unqualified people to conduct this sport in the valley.

  • Its sad to see the adventure sports scenario in Kullu. Though it provides employment to thousands in the valley and fun to lakhs visiting Kullu, for a professional adventure sports promoter things look very bleak. Be it hundreds of rafting companies spread into every nook and corner of Beas or the so called paragliding in Solang and Kothi, the truth of the matter is that adventure has totally gone commercial in the valley without any heed to safety , rules or regulations.

    By definition adventure means risk …..adventure sports means taking calculated risks …a thing that can only be accomplished by people who have undergone severe training. I dont think anybody in the Government is really testing the pilots or the equipment as the Government set up is just incapable of doing so. I recall several occasions in the past few years where the deaths of tourists have led to a ban both on rafting and paragliding. Local pressure lobby forces the Government to reopen it again. However nobody is thinking of the families of people who have lost their lives because life is considered cheap in India.

    Lack of adequate training facilities, a big inflow of second hand worn out equipment and improper certification will lead to dooms day for adventure in KUllu in which mother nature has been kind enough to give all the symbiotic elements for practicing these adventure sports.

    I think its high time for us to involve the Akash Ganga team of the Indian army to assess the aero sports scenario in HImachal along with the Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and reasses the opening of numerous rafting stretches in the Beas for cheap commercial adventure which will keep on leading to deaths and unreported accidents.

  • Well i had a torrid time doing the paragliding at solang valley. While take-off due one of the line got stuck somewhere and the pilot (Must be untrained) instead of putting brakes continued the ride and after that wht happened was the real shock of my life. I covered almost 30% distance by being dragged and hit here and there on rocks, small plantations. Fortunately it stopped before a big fall full of big stones. Well i almost died for no mistake of mine and the Pilot just ran away from the scene. for 30 mins i couldnt see anythng. Anyways its good to do but in india with this kind of management i would say “Do IT AT YOUR OWN RISK”.

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