Nepal | July 10, 2020

EDITORIAL: Finalise modality

The Himalayan Times
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The government must finalise the modality at the earliest for the construction of Nijgadh International Airport to take off

The Council of Ministers on Tuesday decided to form a high-level committee led by Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari to expedite construction of the much-talked- about Nijgadh International Airport (NIA). The government took this decision after the multi-billion rupee project failed to move ahead as planned earlier. The committee, led by the line minister, consists of secretaries from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry Finance, Ministry of Land Reforms and Management, Ministry Forest and Environment and director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). The Cabinet has primarily assigned the high-level committee to look into the issues related to acquisition of land, distribution of compensation to the individuals whose land has been acquired, clearance of forest and protection of the land acquired from outside encroachment, among others. The committee will also examine how much land the NIA will actually require. As per the 2011 report, the airport will cover around 3,000 hectares of land – 2,000 hectares for the airport and 1,000 hectares for the planned airport city. A large swathe of land falls within the forest areas while the government has to acquire around 70 hectares of private land. The government had already allocated Rs 500 million for land compensation.

The NIA has been a national priority project for long. Its development modality, however, is yet to be finalised by the Cabinet. The Finance Ministry in January had proposed constructing it on engineering, procurement, construction and financing (EPCF) model. The minister-led panel will come up with an appropriate modality to build the airport, which will help ease traffic congestion at the TIA, which currently handles as many as 700 flights – domestic and international – every day. TIA-bound international flights can also be diverted to the NIA in case of any problem at the Kathmandu airport. Once the construction modality is finalised by the Cabinet, the construction of the NIA is expected to pick up pace, as the government has already purchased the detailed feasibility study report of the NIA from Landmark Worldwide, a South Korean company, which completed its study in 2011. The report estimated Rs 65 billion – in 2011 foreign exchange rate – to complete the construction of the first phase of the international airport with a single runway.

Minister Adhikari has said the construction modality will be finalised within May. There is a need to stick to the deadline. While it is important to construct the NIA at the earliest to reduce air traffic pressure at the TIA, the government should also expedite construction of the 76-km Kathmandu-Nijgadh fast track which is being built by the Nepali Army. The fast track and the NIA are interlinked. For the full utilisation of these two mega projects, they need to be completely almost simultaneously. However, the cumbersome legal process of land acquisition and forest clearance are the two major issues that need to be resolved first. The people in Dumarwana, Bara and in Bungamati, Lalitpur from where the fast track starts are protesting the government move as their land is being acquired without their informed consent and without adequate compensation.


Road to Humla

Humla, a remote district in Karnali Province, is set to come nearer to the rest of the country, thanks to the construction of the Mugu-Humla Link Road (MHLR). The road is being constructed under the United Kingdom’s Rural Access Programme Phase III, which was announced in Surkhet on Tuesday. The road construction is expected to create up to 600,000 employment days and jobs for 1,300 workers.

Humla is one of the poorest districts with 50 per cent of the population living under the poverty line and stands at the bottom of the HDI. Roads, which are arteries of economy, are vital to any development agenda, as they bridge the gap between farmers and markets, students and schools, the sick and hospitals and workers and jobs. The completion of the Mugu-Humla road is expected to improve livelihood of people and unlock the district’s economic potential. Humla and Dolpa are the only two districts that are yet to be linked with national road network. Prime Minister KP Oli two weeks ago said that Rs 200 million would be allocated to link Dolpa with the national highway. We hope all districts of Nepal soon will be linked with road networks.

 


A version of this article appears in print on April 26, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.


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