BHAIRAHAWA, August 30: Gautam Buddha International Airport, which is expected to be ready for operation by June next year, is likely to miss the completion deadline.
Chinese company, Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction, had started construction work of the regional airport on June 15, 2015, setting a deadline in the contract to complete the project by December, 2017.
The government extended the completion deadline by a year, citing factors like the 2015 earthquakes, unofficial economic blockade by India, and shortage of construction materials.
The national pride project is being built as an alternative to the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) -- the only international airport of the country - which has already reached its saturation point.
Though the new deadline is only nine months away, only 30 percent of the construction work has been completed so far. The delay has raised fear that the airport might not be ready for international flight operation by June next year.
The project work is moving at a slow pace since mid-April.
According to project officials, the Chinese contractor should achieve 6 percent of physical progress every month to complete the project on time. However, it has managed to achieve only 0.5 percent per work progress per month. Om Sharma, chief of the Gautam Buddha International Airport Project, told Republica that the contractor should mobilize nearly 200 workers, including skilled technical manpower, and equipment in the project site everyday to complete the project within the given deadline.
Though the contractor has mobilized 100 workers, most of them are unskilled workers, according to Sharma.
The construction has been affected since mid-April following disputes over payment between the Chinese contractor and its Nepali subcontractor. The Nepali subcontractor, Northwest Infra Nepal, has halted construction for nearly a month in March and April, stating that the Chinese firm has not released its payment.
While the Chinese contractor earlier said that it would do all the works, terminating subcontract awarded to the Nepali firm, it has been failing to mobilize necessary human resources and equipment for construction. The Chinese company has not achieved physical progress even five months after terminating the subcontract.
Sharma told Republica that the project has given Chinese contractor final warning for expediting the project. “We won't have any option but to terminate the contract with the contractor if it ignores final warning of the government,” he said, adding that contractor, of late, has taken initiative to expedite the project after written warning was issued.
“The contractor has sought permission to import heavy equipment and hire project manager as well as skilled manpower. This shows that the contractor is taking needful initiative to improve its work performance,” Sharma added.
The Chinese company had made a flawed decision to subcontract managerial and construction works another firms, observers say. While the subcontractor should have been chosen on the basis of merit based on nature of the project, problems arose after the contractor handed over all construction works to Northwest Nepal Infra Pvt Ltd on the basis of superficial analysis and political favor.
Political parties in the district have remained conspicuously silent over delay in completion of the project. This silence is attributed to benefits, like appointment of suppliers and local contractor close to them, that they have been receiving, sources say.
The parliament's Public Accounts Committee recently concluded that local political parties were also responsible for the delay and negligence of the national pride project. Dor Prasad Upadhyay, the chairperson of the committee who recently made a site visit, said that political parties should also be blamed for the delay.