BIR, HP — The government of Himachal Pradesh has imposed a temporary ban on paragliding at the popular Bir-Billing site, 80km southeast of Dharamshala, claiming a need to keep the region secure during the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches in Dharamshala.
Paragliding enthusiasts and professional pilots alike have criticized the ban, saying it is unnecessary and harmful both to local business and to India’s chances in the upcoming Asian Championship in China on 20 May.
According to the Times of India:
Flyers Gurpreet Dhindsa and Jyoti Thakur, who are to participate in the tournament, said: “This ban doesn’t make sense. A sport must not suffer due to another. We are here wasting crucial time, otherwise would have practiced our skills better.” However, the administration citied a different season saying the ban was due to arrival of VIPs. Kangra deputy commissioner R S Gupta said, “Paragliding has been restricted due to the IPL matches. Security measures are necessary as so many VIPs and VVIPs are scheduled to arrive.” The ban has also upset local flyers and tourists. “The tourist season has begun and the weather is suitable. We charge Rs 1,200 to Rs 2,000 from each customer, and we cannot go on with our business,” said an operator.
Bir-Billing is acknowledged as the best site in India for professional-level paragliding, and is regarded internationally as the second-best site in the world, second only to Lake Como in Italy. Paragliding enthusiasts travel to Bir from across the globe to enjoy the strong thermals and beautiful scenery.