Kathmandu, June 28

The National Concern and Coordination Committee has taken a decision to direct the Ministry of Forest and Environment to give permission to Nijgadh International Airport (NIA) to cut down trees at the construction site of the airport.

The committee called a meeting today with representatives from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) to discuss about the work progress of NIA. As per the meeting, the committee will direct the forest ministry to allow NIA to cut down trees as mentioned in the detailed feasibility study (DFS).

During the meeting, CAAN had requested the lawmakers to open the way for NIA to cut down trees by directing the forest ministry to grant the necessary permission. “We have already submitted the documents to the forest ministry seeking permission to cut down trees. However, we have not received any response yet,” said Rajan Pokhrel, director general of CAAN. Other works can be done only after completing the site clearance work, he added.

A few countries had shown interest to invest in the NIA during the Investment Summit Nepal 2019. “Investors have shown interest in NIA, however, we need to show some work progress to attract them,” Pokhrel said, adding, “Since the approval process is long, it would be better to take this step as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Birendra Bahadur Deuja, former tourism secretary, said that the construction of NIA has already been delayed for the last 25 years, so there is no option other than to begin the construction without any further delays. “All the studies and reports have showed that Nijgadh is the only place where we can build a full-fledged international airport,” he said, “It is not wise to halt a development project.”

Sometimes in the name of saving the environment and sometimes in the name of detailed project report (DPR), the project is being affected badly, Deuja added.

Meanwhile, National Pride Project Chief of CAAN, Pradip Adhikari, requested the committee to direct the government to finalise the construction modality of the airport. “We cannot take forth the project unless we receive a final decision on how to build the airport,” he said, “Whether it is G2G (government-to-government) or PPP (public-private partnership) or BOOT (build, own, operate and transfer), we just need a final decision of how to build the airport. Because this is a roadmap for us to work and the government has to make a stable decision.”

He further claimed that CAAN is all set to begin work, however, no steps have been taken due to confusing roadmaps. Besides, he also informed the committee that the work of resettlement and compensation distribution is in the final phase. Adhikari further assured the committee that CAAN will work as per the study reports and field visit reports. “We are ready to begin work.”

Responding to stakeholders, the committee has decided to direct the government to take immediate decision for airport construction. Similarly, the committee directed CAAN to complete the resettlement work soon.