KATHMANDU, April 10: Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has allocated Rs 100 million for the maintenance of runway at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). A meeting of CAAN held last week took such decision for the renovation of TIA runway after Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari directed the airport authorities to operate TIA for 21 hours a day as soon as possible.
Although CAAN was working on TIA expansion project, the decision taken by the ministry has forced CAAN to speed up the renovation to meet the criteria set by the government.
According to CAAN officials, it is difficult to run TIA for 21 hours a day in such a short notice. "TIA expansion work was running smoothly but now we are under pressure to complete the work as soon as possible in order to comply with the directives of the ministry," said Birendra Prasad Shrestha, spokesperson of CAAN.
According to Shrestha, the allocated budget will be used for the repair of highly sensitive areas of the runway. The maintenance work at TIA runway is taking place from midnight till six in the morning. This is the time the airport remains closed for six hours.
While CAAN is pouring money on renovation of TIA runway, the runway extension work under TIA expansion project is yet to kick off. CAAN had started TIA expansion project in November dividing the work in three packages - NCB 01 runway extension, NCB 02 international terminal building expansion and NCB 03 utility works. Of the three packages, NCB 01 runway extension has not been started yet due to internal issues of the contractor company. The contract of NCB 01 was awarded to a Chinese company, Shanxi Construction Engineering Group Corporation.
The contracts of NCB 02 and NCB 03 were awarded to Nepali joint venture companies Sharma, Prera & Ashish Construction, and Ashish Prera JV Nepal respectively. "The works of these two contracts are running in full swing and will be complete within the targeted deadline," Shrestha said.
CAAN says that the airport can be run 24 hours a day but the major problem for this is manpower crunch and the current condition of the runway.
"Another problem is that the TIA is situated in between dense settlements and the locals might protest the decision of running the airport for 24 hours," said Shrestha. He further said that TIA will certainly require more manpower. Currently TIA has altogether 400 employees.
"We had operated TIA for 24 hours a day during emergency situations before," he said adding, "The problem is to give continuity to this service."
CAAN was waiting for Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) to get ready by 2017 so that the traffic congestion at TIA would reduce significantly. However, delay on GBIA project has affected the planning of CAAN regarding TIA management strategy. Shrestha told Republica that CAAN is preparing to run the airport 21 hours a day following instructions from Minister Adhikari.
The newly-appointed minister has declared upgrading TIA infrastructure and management as a priority in order to reduce air traffic congestion and management of traffic flow at the airport.