Kathmandu, November 29
Construction of Nijgadh International Airport (NIA) is unlikely to begin by mid-December as promised by Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai.
Earlier, Minister Bhattarai had said that the government is making an effort to lay the foundation stone for NIA by mid-December. However, the first quarterly report of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has revealed that preparations for NIA construction are yet to be completed.
As per the first quarterly report of MoCTCA, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has already prepared the framework for site clearance of NIA project and it is currently being discussed at the ministry. However, the Ministry of Forests and Environment is yet to give permission to fell trees at the construction site.
Also, the construction modality of the airport is yet to be decided. As mentioned in the report, MoCTCA is holding discussions with Investment Board Nepal (IBN) regarding construction modality of the international airport.
Likewise, compensation distribution to households affected by the airport construction that have the necessary property-related documents is in the final phase. However, resettlement of squatters residing at the construction area is still under process.
As per the quarterly report, NIA project has achieved 15 per cent financial progress so far from the budget allocated for the current fiscal year, while its physical progress is nil.
Meanwhile, Pradip Adhikari, CAAN director for national pride projects, claimed that the construction of NIA will begin soon.
“We are having frequent discussions with the forest ministry and will sign an agreement soon for cutting the trees at the construction site,” he said. “Site clearance is the prerequisite for airport construction and we are very close to reaching the consensus with the forest ministry.”
He further claimed that all the planning and preparations have been completed by CAAN for site clearance. Once the site clearance is finished, airport construction will advance rapidly, he added.
CAAN has been claiming that the airport construction can be completed within five years from the starting date.
It is to be noted that it has already been 24 years since the government came up with a plan to build the Nijgadh airport as an international hub, like the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.
The plan is to develop the hub as an air transit for 22 neighbouring countries, handling around 15 million air passengers per year.
A version of this article appears in print on November 30, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.