Air pollution: Poor visibility affects flights from Pokhara International Airport

Published On: April 14, 2023 07:30 PM NPT By: Santosh Pokharel

POKHARA, April 14: Major cities are currently experiencing high levels of air pollution, particularly in areas such as Pokhara and the capital city, Kathmandu. This pollution has become so severe that it is now impacting the visibility for flights at the Pokhara Regional International Airport. As a result, no aircraft were able to land at the airport until 3:30 PM on Friday afternoon.

Pokhara Regional International Airport typically operates between the hours of 6:00 AM and 8:30 PM. However, due to the current air pollution levels, flights were unable to operate until 3:30 PM. While two flights had departed for Kathmandu in the morning, no flights were able to arrive from Kathmandu or other cities to Pokhara. The airport's chief, Bikramraj Gautam, explained that the poor visibility caused by the air pollution was the reason for the disruption of air travel at Pokhara International Airport.

At least 3800 meters of visibility is required to land a plane at Pokhara International Airport. But the visibility at 3:30 in the afternoon is only 2000 meters," said Gautam, "The visibility was not enough to fly. Because of that, the flight has been affected.”

He said that the two Buddha Air planes that landed in Pokhara on Thursday night took off for Kathmandu on Friday morning, but the planes coming to Pokhara from other cities, including Kathmandu, could not arrive. According to Gautam, even if the flight is based on technology (IFR) at the international airport, visibility of 3800 meters is required. Previously, when flying based on VFR (Visual Flight) from Pokhara's old airport, visibility of 5,000 meters was required.

Tourists who come to visit Pokhara in the New Year have been affected. There are at least 30 one-way flights per day. 

"Air transport has also been affected. Thousands of passengers have to bear the brunt of the affected flights at the airport and the tourism sector has been affected. Not only that, but it also affects the income of the airport.”

The station manager of Buddha Air in Pokhara, Gaumal Baral, confirmed that the air pollution had caused visibility issues, resulting in flight disruptions. Baral reported that hundreds of passengers were left stranded at the airport due to the flight delays. He also mentioned that many tourists who had planned to visit Pokhara to celebrate the New Year were forced to stay in Kathmandu instead. Currently, Buddha Air operates 15 flights per day from Pokhara to Kathmandu, as well as one flight each from Pokhara to Bharatpur, Bhairahawa, and Nepalganj.


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