Tour operators who offer adventure tourism in the basin of Mahakali river and its tributaries in Uttarakhand are worried that after the construction on the dam starts they would not be able to carry out activities such as rafting, camping and angling in the river.
Pancheshwar: As efforts are on to speed up the development of Pancheshwar dam, local entrepreneurs and tour operators have raised concerns that Pancheshwar, which has emerged as one of the top adventure tourism destination in the state, will lose out on thrill-seeking travellers once the structure is built.
The proposed dam in Pancheshwar, which lies on the Indo-Nepal border, will generate 5040 MW of power and would be the second highest dam in the world. The project will be three times bigger than the Tehri Dam in its size and capacity. In 2014, the Pancheshwar Development Authority was established to make a detailed project report (DPR) of Pancheshwar MultipurposeDevelopment Project, which was a key part of the Mahakali Treaty, signed between India and Nepal, in 1996.
Officials of the authority have been doing the rounds in the region with the work on the project expected to take off soon.This has worried tour operators who offer adventure tourism in the basin of Mahakali river and its tributaries in Uttarakhand. They say that once the construction on the dam starts they would not be able to carry out activities such as rafting, camping and angling in the river. “It’s uncertain what will happen to us once the work on the dam starts. We have trained villagers here to be expert river and fishing guides. They have an opportunity to earn their livelihood without migrating. Once the flow of the river is curbed by the dam what will they do with their skills?” said Prashant Bisht, owner of Pancheshwar Fishing Retreat.
In recent years, Pancheshwar has emerged as one of the top adventure tourism destinations after Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, with active support from the state government. The KumaonMandal Vikas Nigam has organized many events here to promote river based adventure sports such as rafting, angling, camping and other activities.
Bisht said that at present most camps are full during peak season and draw a lot of foreign tourists. Raj Gadkoti, a licence holding river and fish guide in Mahakali, said, “I can’t search for another job at this age. Where will I go if I’m not allowed to work here?”
Gadkoti said, “Mahakali is the only river in Kumaon that is suitable for the river rafting. Its waters are more challenging than Ganges in Rishikesh. Also, one can find the endangered Mahaseer fish only in this river. Both these unique features will be submerged due to this project.”
Another tour guide, Ganesh added, “Many local residents are earning their living from Mahakali, which is set to submerge in the dam.”
KMVN officials admitted that the proposed dam would affect the tour operators adversely.
Dhiraj Garbyal, MD, KMVN, said, “Rafting activities on the river will be hit but there are other water sports that can be offered such as kayaking, canoeing etc.”