Sikkim is fast emerging as the paragliding destination of India, and this can be gauged by the fact that adventure lovers from different parts of the world are making a beeline for the state for this thrilling experience in the foot hills of the Himalayas .
Sikkim has excellent paragliding launching sites and ridges, and the recently held first Sikkim Paragliding Festival is a testament to that.
Organised by the state's Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation in collaboration with the Paragliding Association of India (PAI) and the Sikkim Paragliding Adventure Sports Co-operative Society Limited, in 2012, it saw the participation of around 60 Indian and foreign paragliding enthusiasts.
The four-day-long festival featured events like free flying; spot landing; acro show and tandem flights.
Sikkim emerged on the nation's paragliding map after the state government sponsored 30 local youths for basic paragliding training in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, in 2008 under the Chief Minister's Self Employment and Capacity Building Program to promote adventure tourism in the state.
Then, after the formation of the Sikkim Paragliding Adventure Sports Cooperative Society in 2010, intermediate and advance training of pilots was undertaken in Bir and Billing in Himachal Pradesh, Kamshet in Pune and Pokhara in Nepal with certified schools and instructors.
At present, the state has over 35 qualified commercial pilots conducting paragliding sessions at three sites-Bulbuley Dara , Ranka and Chakung.
Four Sikkimese paragliding pilots have already participated in international level events like the Nepal Open Championships and the Himalayan Open Championships. This played an instrumental role in promoting Sikkim as the preferred paragliding venue at the global level.
Sikkimese paragliding pilots are also providing training and technical expertise in other north eastern states.
At present around 100 youth are associated with the paragliding events which generates a revenue of about Rs.1 crore a year.
The state government actively plans to rope in 500 youths for promotion of paragliding sports.
It is developing two more state of the art and modern paragliding sites at Yumthang and Soren at a cost of Rs.10 crore during the 12th Five Year Plan.
Future plans include developing at least two paragliding sites with latest safety ,medical and infrastructural facilities in each district of the state by the year 2020, said Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling recently.
Various paragliding associations, which are registered with the Department of Tourism are providing Tandom, High Fly and Medium Fly services of different durations from select sites at reasonable rates.
The state has registered 6000 paragliding tourists in the last three years and set a target of attracting 5000 paragliding tourists each year by the year 2020 by creating modern facilities.The state government is planning to expand and beautify the existing takeoff at Bulbuley Dara and Chakung, so that the carrying capacity of takeoff increases, said the state's Tourism Minister Bhim Prasad Dhungel.
Paragliding services in the state are also being diversified. A new hike and fly route in West Sikkim has been established. Another route from Phoktey Dara on the Nepal-India border and Dentam has also been identified. (ANI)