Kathmandu, December 6
The fate of Nijgadh International Airport hangs in balance following the directive of the Supreme Court to halt all the ongoing work, including felling of trees, at the construction site.
The apex court issued the directive acting on a writ petition filed by Dwarikanath Dhungel, former secretary of Nijgadh Forest Preservation Committee, and Senior Advocate Krishna Prasad Bhandari, along with eight others.
The Supreme Court also directed the government to immediately stop felling trees at the construction site and halt all the work that was under way at the construction site.
The petition was filed against the federal Cabinet, Cabinet of Province 2, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Forests and Environment and the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment of Province 2.
The petitioners have stated that millions of trees will have to be felled to construct the airport. “There are a large number of trees that are 500 to 600 years old and they should be preserved,” states the petition, requesting the SC to direct the authorities concerned to stop environmental destruction in the name of development.
Meanwhile, speaking in a meeting yesterday, Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai had said the Cabinet is preparing to take a ‘breakthrough’ decision on NIA. Prior to this, Bhattarai had also promised a breakthrough in NIA construction that has been stalled for the last 24 years.
However, the SC’s decision will put a spanner in the works of the MoCTCA, which was all set to build the second international airport in the country. The NIA is also listed among the national pride projects.
The government has a plan to build the Nijgadh airport as an international hub akin to the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. The plan is to develop the hub as an air transit for 22 nearby countries, handling around 15 million air passengers per year. Moreover, NIA has also been considered as an alternative to address increasing air congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport. The government also expects this airport to play a significant role in the overall economy of the country.
The SC has called both the parties for further discussion.