BHAIRAHAWA, June 20: The government’s apathy toward arranging construction material for the Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) is likely to bring construction work on the national pride project to a complete halt.
The delay on the side of the District Development Committee, Rupandehi, and the president of Chure-Tarai Madhesh Conservation Development Board to allow the project to extract construction material like boulders and aggregate from local rivers is making it difficult for the project to carry out necessary construction work on the airport.
Project officials say works cannot continue if the shortage is not eased within two months.
The government has set December 2017 as the target to complete the national pride project, which it hopes will become an alternative airport to Tribhuvan International Airport.
The upgradation of the domestic airport to an international airport is funded in grants and loans by Asian Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. The total cost for the project was estimated at $ 97.2 million.
“If we do not get construction material even after Bhadra (mid-August), we will have to either shut down the project or at least stop calling it a national pride project. This is a serious problem for us as it is likely to halt the project,” Om Sharma, who heads the project implementation unit at GBIA, told Republica.
So far, the project has carried out work like earth-filling on the embankment for the runway which requires less construction material. The project’s progress status has been satisfactory enough as of first week of June as it has made a cumulative progress of 15.94 percent compared to the target of 22.91 percent, according to the project implementation unit.
“We have managed to get construction material on our own until now. Once the monsoon ends, we have to concentrate on the runaway and terminal building for which we will need a large volume of construction material. If the project does not get the construction material by that time, the project will be badly affected,” he warned.
While the government had decided to impose a ban on extraction of the construction material from the Chhure area in 2014, a cabinet decision to give relax the ban on extraction for development projects has made it a bit easier for GBIA.
Sharma told Republica that the lack of cooperation from other government agencies is hampering the project even after the cabinet’s decision. “It is frustrating when various agencies like the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, the District Development Committee, the environment ministry and the Chure Conservation Board take too long to give consent for extraction,” he added.
He estimates that the project will require 3,000 cubic meters of aggregate daily after construction is on full swing.
“So far, the supply of construction material is only around 10 percent of what is required,” he added.
Dundu Raj Ghimire, joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation (MOTCA), blames the district development committee for not giving the project clearance for extraction from the rivers.
Kenichi Yokoyama, ADB’s Country Director for Nepal, says the government agencies should cooperate with the project for its timely completion. “The district development committee needs to give clearance for extraction of aggregate to avoid any further delay as this is a high-priority project for the nation. I do not understand why the district development committee is not giving clearance after everybody seems to be OK,” he adds.