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Aerial ‘tree seeding’ plan grounded after Lohegaon airspace scare

IT was supposed to be a pilot project in ‘aerial tree seeding’ - the first ever in the country using paragliders.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni |
September 17, 2012 2:32:12 am

IT was supposed to be a pilot project in ‘aerial tree seeding’ – the first ever in the country using paragliders. As per the plan,as many as 15 paramotorists were to fly over five districts in the state scattering seeds on barren lands,hoping that rain would help them sprout take roots.

The project that was to kickstart in August has been postponed to the next rains,the reason being unidentified glider-like objects spotted over Lohegaon airfield on June 29-30. Organisers of the project,Aerosports Association,Wings and Flights,had jointly planned it with Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK). They are instead assisting investigating agencies in probing the glider-like objects and also working towards creating a framework within which the paragliders in the country can operate,a requirement the incident prominently highlighted.

“The incident wrongly got reported as ‘paragliders spotted’. The weather conditions on June 29 were not feasible for paragliders to operate. This fact surfaced in investigations that followed. We are all law abiding citizens and have never indulged in such activities. But all of a sudden,it has become difficult to obtain permissions and approach authorities,” said Eric Menezes,chief paragliding instructor,Wings and Flights. NYK was to approach the district collectors of the five districts and ties up with forest officials for the project.

“We wanted to carry it out during the rainy season. Experts were contemplating whether to April-May or later will be suitable. Now it has been postponed to next year,” said Yashwant Mankhedkar,district youth coordinator of the NYK. While aerial seeding activity is just one example,the paragliding community in the city — 400 registered paragliders and four clubs — have been at the receiving end since June 29-30. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation mentions that regulating paragliding is a state subject and paragliders need to seek clearances from the local Air Traffic Control before flying.

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While IAF has been supportive,paragliders are facing problems as their basic operational framework is now being questioned. “We met IAF authorities who advised us to frame some guidelines to get clearances from the police and the district collectorate. A fortnight ago,we met the police commissioner. Some framework and guidelines will be ready within a month,” said Menezes.

“Paragliding,international sport has no government support. The Maharashtra terrain is one of the best in the world for paragliding,The tourism department seems disinterested in supporting us. At international events,we have no mechanism for government recommendations. It is high time the government and the authorities thought seriously of us,else,one day we will all have to look at other countries to continue with the sport.”

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First published on: 17-09-2012 at 02:32:12 am
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