All eyes on alternative airports
March 13, 2015
Kathmandu, March 12: Nepal was disconnected from the rest of the world for 83 hours after a Turkish Airlines aircraft skidded off the runway while landing at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu on March 4. Aviation experts had long been emphasizing the need for an alternative international airport, saying that the Tribhuvan International airport (TIA) has already reached its saturation point. The Turkish Air incident showed how desperately we need a second international airport. The government has floated three international airport projects -- upgradation of Gautam Buddha Airport (GBA) in Bhairahawa into a regional international airport, construction of regional international airport in Pokhara, and construction of a full-fledged international airport in Nijgadh of Bara. Though civil construction works of GBA has already begun, works on other two projects are moving at a snail's pace."We need additional airports to handle increasing air traffic at TIA," Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), said. "Upon completion, the new airports will help us a lot in managing air traffic."Pradip Adhikari, project manager of Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA), said the government should give priority to development of essential infrastructures like airport without looking after cost benefit analysis. "The full-fledged international airport in Nijgadh of Bara is necessary to develop Nepal as a transit hub. But we also need regional airports to ensure balanced socio-economic development," added Adhikari.
Republica has tried to find out the status of these airport projects.
Gautam Buddha Airport, Bhairahawa
The civil works of GBA is going on in full swing after Prime Minister Sushil Koirala laid foundation stone for the upgradation works in January“ "Diversion works of Ghagra Khola has already begun. Similarly, layout works of new terminal building is going on, temporary facility for constructing site office is being made and the lab test of materials to be used has already been carried ou”," said Murari Bhandari, project director of GBA Extension Project, told Republica.According to Bhandari, preparation is underway to announce tender for installation of navigation and communication equipment. "We will award the tender by the end of 2015," he added.Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group of China is the contractor of the project which is expected to cost US$ 86 million.Upon completion, the airport will have a 3,000-meter runway. This means the airport can serve as an alternative international airport for Nepal, according to officials.After completion of construction work in the first phase, the airport will be able to serve 760,000 passengers annually. Works on second phase will begin after 10 years. The airport will be able to handle 2 million passengers annually after works in phase two are completed.
The upgradation works are expected to be completed by December, 2017.
Pokhara regional international airport
The government is distributing compensation to owners for land acquired for the regional airport project.According to officials, officials of Export Import (Exim) Bank China, which is financing the project, had visited Nepal few days ago to get supporting documents from CAAN."The government has already sent application for loan agreement to the Exim Bank. Construction works will begin once the loan agreement is signed," added Adhikari.The Exim Bank is providing concessional loan to the finance ministry. The ministry will then lend the amount to CAAN, levying interest rate of 8 percent.The airport, which will spread over 200 hectares, will have 2,500-meter long and 45-meter wide runway. It will be able to handle medium category jets like Boeing 757 and Airbus 320.China CAMC Engineering Co, Ltd (CAMCE) has bagged the contract to build the airport. According to Adhikari, construction works are expected to complete in four years. The airport to be constructed in Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) model is estimated to cost $215.96 million.
Second int'l airport in Nijgadh
The government is working to survey the area allocated for the airport and fix boundary of the mega project. "A proposal to this effect has been forwarded to the cabinet. Once the cabinet declares the area as an airport area and publish a notice in Nepal Gazette, the works for demarcating airport area will begin. It will take around three years to clear the are”," Okil Chimauriya, project director of SIA, said. He said the government will soon form a committee to discuss construction details and financing modality. The government has also decided to provide Rs 500 million allocated in the budget to CAAN as equity investment to carry out preliminary works. "As SIA will be a transit hub for different countries, the project should not be delayed. It will be able to accommodate the latest aircraft," Suman said. The government recently carried out internal discussions on merging two projects -- TIA expansion and SIA -- into a single package. But officials say it would be a mistake. "It will take almost three years to finalize area for SIA and many years to complete it. The two projects should be taken ahead separately," Mukesh Dahal, general secretary of CAAN's authorized employee union, told Republica. A study carried out by South Korean firm Landmark Worldwide (LMW) has estimated the cost of first phase works of SIA at $650 million. The airport, which will be completed in three phases, will be able to handle 60 million passengers and aircraft as big as Airbus 380 by the end of the third phase. It will have two 4,700-meter runways. Upon completion of the first phase, the airport will be able to handle 15 million passengers annually. Similarly, it will be able to handle 30 million passengers at the end of the second phase. Once it has parallel runway by the end of third phase, the airport will be able to handle 60 million passengers annually. The airport will have parking space for 15 international aircraft, four domestic aircraft, and two cargo aircraft. Likewise, the first passenger terminal, which will spread over 75,500 square meters, will have six boarding gates, security inspection counters and baggage claim counters, 34 check-in counters, 35 immigration counters and eight custom inspection counters. The two-storied terminal building will have arrival area in the ground floor and departure area in the first floor. Works of first phase will be completed in six years. The airport will be able to start full-fledged operation 14 years after the beginning of construction works.