Kathmandu, May 30
A recent meeting of the Council of Ministers has given a nod to the proposal of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) to operate the Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) under the government-to-government (G2G) modality.
Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota, who is also the spokesperson for the government, informed that the decision to operate the international airport in Bhairahawa under G2G modality was made in a bid to ensure GBIA’s sustainable commercial operation.
Moreover, the Cabinet meeting has also asked MoCTCA to soon call for applications from global bidders to operate the second international airport of the country.
Though construction of GBIA is nearing completion, the government had failed to decide the operation modality of the airport time and again. Late tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari had put forward a concept of public-private-partnership model to operate the airport. On the other hand, aviation sector regulator, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), itself had also expressed interest to operate the airport.
However, it is now clear that GBIA will be operated by a foreign firm.
The government had initially set a target to operate GBIA from the beginning of 2019. However, the project missed its deadline and is likely to take some more months to complete. The government had aimed to bring the airport into operation before the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign begins and the success of the tourism campaign depends heavily on the operation of this airport.
The fiscal budget for 2019-20, presented at the Parliament on Wednesday, has stated that GBIA will start operations within the upcoming fiscal year. As of now, around 75 per cent of the construction works of the project has been completed, as per CAAN. Construction of the terminal building and control tower are in the final stage while blacktopping of the runway has been completed.
Meanwhile, air routes from Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj are also equally essential for GBIA to operate smooth international flights. Till date, India has only provided low-altitude routes to Nepal that are useful for only cross-border flights. High-altitude air routes will be significant as they will help reduce distance and fuel consumption.
CAAN and the Airports Authority of India had signed an agreement on June 16 regarding new air entry routes for Nepal. India has agreed to provide eastern air routes of Biratnagar and Janakpur, while aircraft flying 24,000 feet or lower can enter from Mahendranagar route.
A version of this article appears in print on May 31, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.