December 2, 2019 12:19 PM NPT
By: Jagat Khadka
BAJHANG, Dec 2: The upgrading and blacktopping work of Dewal Airport in Bajhang is behind schedule.
Locals say airport upgrading work is moving ahead in slow page due to carelessness of contractor. Because of the delay, locals are not being able to access good health services during emergencies. Similarly, movement of tourists to the district has also been affected as no flight is operated to the airport.
Amar Construction signed the contract with the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) in July 2018 to complete runway blacktopping work in 15 months. But the work still remains incomplete.
Jala Dhami, who operates an eatery near the airport, said she was hopeful of better business prospects with the blacktopping of the airport. But her hopes have evaporated now. “I used to get lot of business when flights were landing at the airport. But with no flight operating after the upgrading work began, I am forced to look for other alternatives for survival,” she added.
She had even asked her husband, who was working in India, to return home and help her in the business.
Dewal Airport, which was built in 1978, was in operation till 2008. But airline companies stopped operating at airport citing poor infrastructure.
With air connectivity cut off, Prithvi Highway is the only road that connects Bajhang to other districts. But the road is also not much dependable as it gets obstructed floods and landslides during monsoon. The highway remained closed for 51 days over the past two years. This resulted into death of seven people due to lack of treatment.
Lawmakers and civil society leaders of the district have drawn the attention of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to toward the matter many times. The ministry even allocated budget for airport upgrading and blacktopping to the joy of the local people. But the delay in upgrading works has left them worried.
The government has set aside Rs 55 million for upgrading of the airport and blacktopping of its runway.
Bharat Neupane, a representative of Amar Construction, told Republica that they have received a new deadline of March 2020 to complete upgrading and blacktopping works.
Locals of Bajhang hope that the airport, upon completion of upgrading works, will not only provide services to local people, but also will help in promotion of tourism in the district. Dan Bahadur Sumerli, chairperson of Bajhang Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said the district was not getting sufficient number of tourists due to dilapidated condition of the airport.
Bajhang is home to tourism attractions like Mount Saipal, Khaptad National Park, Surma Sarovar, and Kailash Cave, among others.