Once Pokhara is connected with railways from Keyrung, Kathmandu and Lumbini, its importance will grow further

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone of the Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) on Wednesday marking the New Year, 2073 Bikram Sambat. Top leaders of the ruling parties and main opposition Nepali Congress were also present on the occasion giving a message that they all are united for national development. PRIA will be the second regional international airport after Gautam Buddha Regional International Airport which will be completed within two years. The Nepal government had reached an agreement with China’s CAMC for the construction of PRIA under the EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) model 17 months ago. The government has already acquired 3,106 ropanis of land at Chhinnedanda and additional 629 ropanis of land will also be acquired for the airport to be built within three years. Once the airport comes into operation big aircraft like Boeing 757 and Airbus 320 can land at PRIA giving much relief to the people of Pradesh No. 4 from where a large number of people migrate for overseas jobs.

It is estimated that it will cost Rs. 21 billion to construct the PRIA. Axim Bank of China will provide 75 percent of the total cost at two percent interest rate while the Chinese government has pledged to provide the rest as a loan without interest. Interest will start only after the airport comes into operation. The government had acquired the land some 41 years ago but the project remained dormant for such a long period of time as a result of political unwillingness of those who came to power. People of the region had been calling for early construction of the airport which, they believed, would open up new avenues for economic development and job opportunities for the entire region.

Pradesh No. 4 is renowned for tourism activities, including mountaineering, trekking, village tourism, river rafting and recently in paragliding. About 60 percent of the tourists who visit Nepal go to Pokhara and surrounding areas and mountains and spend more than a week there. Recently, a large number of Chinese tourists have started visiting Pokhara and its vicinity and the hotel entrepreneurs have also started developing their tourism products in the Chinese language. Once the PRIA starts international flights foreign tourists will no longer need take detour from Kathmandu. Keeping this in mind hotel entrepreneurs have made a huge investment in big hotels and other tourism-related infrastructures to accommodate the inflow of bigger number of tourists. On the other hand, people of this Pradesh will not have to travel to Kathmandu to take international flights to go abroad as the Lake City itself will be directly connected with the outside world. Pokhara will be developed as a tourism capital generating additional revenues for the national exchequer. It will add one more feather on its cap once Pokhara is connected with railways from Keyrung, Kathmandu and Lumbini in coming years. Better connectivity provides better economic opportunities for people. Keeping this in mind the government should not delay in building Second International Airport in Nijgadh as well. It will also provide biggest ever economic potentials to the people of Pradesh No. 2.

Zero poaching

There was zero rhino poaching last year in the Chitwan National Park which is indeed a remarkable achievement. Moreover, only three rhinos have been poached since 2010. As many as 38 rhinos were poached in a single year during the conflict period.  The new strategy to protect this endangered wildlife has paid off. After a single rhino was poached on May 2014 no rhinos have been poached so far. This success has been attributed to increased security and use of modern technology to protect these pachyderms. According to the latest count, there are a total of 645 one-horned rhinos in the various national parks in the country. Chitwan is home to the largest number of rhinos in the country -- 600 at present.

Let us hope that we will be able to halt the poaching of the valuable wildlife like rhinos so that they do not become extinct.  In the past Nepal was criticized for not protecting the endangered wildlife, including rhinos. Now it appears they have succeeded in doing so. Those who are responsible for halting the poaching activities deserve accolades. Let us hope that they will be able to bring a halt to poaching in the future years as well.