Since the inception of the ban on kite flying by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2005, there has been great confusion over kite flying, kite making and the sale of kites and line in Pakistan.
Kite flying is a very popular and culturally embedded tradition in Pakistan, especially during Basant, the festival that welcomes the coming of Spring to the nation. Basant is celebrated by people of all religions: Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians.
Historically there have been a great many injuries and even deaths attributed to kite flying. Kite fliers typically take to the roof tops in the crowded cities and some have fallen from their perch to the streets below. To show off kite flying skills, participants try to cut each other's kite from the sky. To enhance the ability to cut through an opponent's kite string, glass coated line is often used. In recent years a type of metallic coating has been applied to the kite line to increase the cutting property. This metallic line has frequently shorted power lines and caused electrical outages.
One of the most significant dangers of the coated line occurs when it drops into the street and is snagged across trees or power poles. Motor scooter riders are then in particular danger of being cut on the neck and arms by the sharp line. Several deaths have occurred in this way. In addition, there is much carnage to the bird population during this period of kite flying.
All of this led to the ban on kite flying by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2005. However, the tens of thousands of kite flyers that continued flying in spite of the ban made an enforcement nightmare for the police. In addition, the ban specified that kite makers and line makers were subject to banishment as well. This cut into the livelihood of many and added severe economic deprivation to the kite makers.
So, in 2006 some regulations were developed around the original kite flying ban to ensure that kite makers could be licensed and controlled and to permit kite flying under certain safety regulations for a limited number of days during the festival. This led to continued confusion and even more headaches for the enforcement authorities. In 2006 the number of deaths and injuries were reduced but not eliminated under the new regulations.
Once again this year, confusion reigns over the issue of making, selling and flying kites in the skies over the major cities of Pakistan. It is difficult to legislate an end to a practice that is deeply embedded in the culture of a nation. Kite flying is not likely to disappear so additional education on safe practices will definitely be needed. For certain, metallic coated line needs to be banned.
One of the practical solutions to the safety issue for motor scooter riders in urban areas was the development of "kite-string rods" which attach to the bikes to ensure that sharp kite lines are deflected up and over the riders and their passengers.
Speaking at a meeting of All-Pakistan Kite Dealers-Manufacturers Association, the District coordination officer (DCO), Muhammad Ijaz said on February 1, 2007 that all union council nazims would provide safety kite-string rods to people who had motorcycles registered under their names. Traffic police would take action against people not using helmets and rods, he added. (Daily Times of Pakistan)
Other regulations have been developed to define the size of kites that can be produced and marketed by the licensed kite makers and vendors. For example, a butterfly kite’s maximum span would be 32 inches and no kite would be permitted to exceed a span of 40 inches. Another regulation ensures that kites in each region could only be manufactured using local materials. Materials from other cities would require the permission of the district environment officer. This latter regulation was not seen as a safety regulation, but rather was introduced to ensure that the local kite economy which was being hit hard by the rules would remain viable. The regulation was intended to discourage the importing of kites from other nations and areas.
The culture of kites in Pakistan is so embedded into the national psyche that it is hoped that these regulations will help to promote safe kite flying while still encouraging the continuance of the unique relationship of kites and kite fighting skills to the people of Pakistan.
Source: When Kites Turn Lethal