The Supreme Court today ordered the government to halt construction of multi-billion-dollar Nijgadh International Airport.

The extended full bench of justices Hari Krishna Karki, Bishwambhar Prasad Shrestha, Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, Prakash Man Singh Rawat, and Manoj Kumar Sharma quashed the government's decision to build Nijgadh Intentional Airport in Bara district as an alternative to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport.

The apex court is yet to prepare the full text of the verdict.

SC Spokesperson Bimal Paudel said the court issued the order as per the demands of the petitioner and asked the government to find an appropriate alternative keeping in mind laws, precedent, and jurisprudence.

The apex court's order comes in response to a public interest litigation filed by senior advocates Prakash Mani Sharma and Dinesh Tripathi, Pro Public, and others against the government challenging the latter's decision to build international airport in Nijgadh.

The fate of $3.45 billion-dollar Nijgadh International Airport had been hanging in the balance for years, with the government making a strong case for it and environmentalists opposing the government's plan, arguing that the project was bad for environment, biodiversity, local communities, and wildlife.

The proposed site is close to Parsa National Park, a sanctuary for wild animals, including tigers and elephants, and supports rich biodiversity.

According to an environmental and social impact assessment carried out by the Tourism Ministry in 2017, more than 2.4 million trees- small and large- will have to be felled to build the airport at the project site.

The petitioners had sought to halt the construction of Nijgadh airport arguing that if the government was allowed to construct the airport in a forest area that is home to endangered species of wild life, it could lead to desertification of Tarai low land.

They said since the environmental impact assessment report presented by the government agency was faulty, it should be repealed.

The SC also invalidated the environmental impact assessment of the project.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 27, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.