Kathmandu, April 7
Gautam Buddha International Airport is unlikely to meet the government target of beginning operations in 2019.
The government had aimed to bring the airport into operation before the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign begins. However, the airport is likely to take time to operate flights even though the physical infrastructure will be ready by 2019-end.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, around 70 per cent of the construction work has been completed so far. Construction of terminal building and control tower and blacktopping of the runway are in the final phase. According to Prabesh Adhikari, project manager of GBIA project, the third layer of blacktopping has been completed so far and the fourth layer will take at least 30 days to complete.
After the completion of runway blacktopping, installation of lights and construction of taxiway will be carried out, which will take at least 15 to 18 days. The roofing of the terminal building and control tower is being done. Construction of the administrative building is in the final phase, while apron construction has been completed so far, said Adhikari.
“The construction of the airport security building and cargo building has started. The process of selecting the company to purchase equipment for communication, navigation and surveillance system has also started,” he added.
Adhikari said physical construction of the airport would be completed by the end of 2019, but it would take more time to bring the airport into operation. Once the infrastructural work (ICB 01) is completed, CAAN will begin the second phase of the project which involves installing the equipment (ICB 02).
“Once we have completed both ICB 01 and ICB 02 we have to take operation approval from the International Civil Aviation Organisation,” he said. “Completion of infrastructure is not the only work that we need to do. We have to go through other processes to bring the airport into operation.”
However, operation modality for GBIA is yet to be finalised. Late tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari had put forward a concept of public-private-partnership model to operate the airport. But the decision on whether the private sector will be authorised to operate the airport or CAAN itself will do so has not been finalised. GBIA is expected to play a major role in the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign.
Besides, 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 April 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.