By Gyanendra Kumar Keshri, Gangtok, Feb 2 IANS | 11 months ago

Sikkim is emerging as a hot spot for paragliding, as increasing numbers of adventure lovers from different parts of the world are visiting the state for a thrilling experience in the Himalayan foothills.

In recent months, increasing numbers of foreign visitors are flocking to the state to enjoy the thrill of a "flying" holiday.

According to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, around 100 local youths are associated with paragliding in the state that generates economic activities of over Rs.1 crore.

Chamling said the state government targets to increase the number of local people actively involved in paragliding to 500.

"We will develop two more modern paragliding sites at Yumthang and Soren with latest world class facilities. The planned investment is Rs.10 crore, for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17)," Chamling told IANS.

In the past three years around 6,000 tourists visited the state for paragliding.

Sikkim Tourism Minister Bhim Prasad Dhungel said the state targets to annually attract at least 5,000 tourists for paragliding by 2020 and the annual revenue from this is likely to go up to Rs.10 crore from the current Rs.1 crore.

"The state government is planning to expand and beautify the existing takeoff at Bulbuley dara and Chakung so that the carrying capacity of the site increases, as the number of Sikkimese pilots is increasing and numbers of tourists coming to fly is on the rise," Dhungel said.

Sikkim emerged on the country's paragliding map after the state government sponsored 30 local youths for basic training in Manali in Himachal Pradesh in 2008 under the "Chief Minister's Self-Employment and Capacity Building Programme".

Consequently, the state formed the Paragliding Adventure Sports Cooperative Society in 2010 to promote the adventure tourism activities.

Dhungel said the government is putting in a lot of effort to expand and modernise the infrastructure for paragliding.

One of the reasons for Sikkim becoming popular among paragliding aficionados is that it provides launch points on the brink of a vast and desolate mountain region that is uninhabited except from occasional groups of trekkers.

The state has excellent launching sites and ridges, according to a cross-section of paragliders.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at gyanendra.k@ians.in)

(Posted on 02-02-2014)

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