Even though we close our doors in May, our message to PADDLE SAFE INDIA is most critical in these busy months of May and June. Thousands of tourists + rogue river operators who compromise on your safety to save a rupee + zero regulations on the number of boats on the water...It's all a recipe for disaster. And sadly, these disasters take place again and again in Rishikesh: people meeting with untimely deaths in situations that are preventable.
It's for this reason that we created Paddle Safe India, a dynamic campaign to promote safe river rafting and kayaking practices throughout India. Launched in 2015, our goals are actually threefold: to raise awareness about safe river rafting and kayaking practices, share questions to ask potential river operators, and build connections with like-minded groups and individuals concerned about water safety throughout India.
What does safe rafting and kayaking look like? There are many components, including trained and certified guides, top-notch gear that passes international safety standards and is worn properly, no more than 8 people per raft, and following the instructions of your river guide. Many of these are discussed in the blog, Safe Rafting! Yes, It Does Exist in India, written by someone equally passionate about river safety. A few other amazing resources include this video, "Life Jackets Float, Do You?" and this article, "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning".
As for our Paddle Safe India campaign, right now, we currently host a website that explains the situation in Rishikesh and lists questions to ask potential operators. We also have a Facebook page, where on the first of every month, we post an image with an unsafe river rafting practice, just to keep everyone's skills sharp. The response we've gotten to the Facebook page, in particular, has been incredible, and we can clearly see that people are keen to learn more about this important topic. For the future, we hope to broaden our base in order to get out our message to a wider audience.
We are determined to raise the industry standard together. But we need your help. Have you ever been in an unsafe river rafting situation? What happened? Do you have any ideas for how we can continue to promote this message? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Be safe out there!
Update: ATOAI recently published Indian Adventure Tourism Guidelines, which include safety standards for water sports. This is a move in the right direction! Check it out here.