DPR of Jumla Airport in limbo, crew flying taking risks

Published On: August 3, 2021 12:15 PM NPT By: DB BUDHA

KATHMANDU, August 3: The detailed project report (DPR) of Jumla Airport, for the upgradation of the airport is in limbo. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and Buddha Air had prepared a DPR to upgrade the airport two years ago. The DPR has not been implemented and neither has the airport been upgraded.

Stakeholders say that CAAN has not shown interest in the project. The then tourism minister, the late Rabindra Adhikari, had promised to build an airport in Jumla to accommodate a 40-seater aircraft. But after his death, no one paid attention to the upgradation of Jumla Airport. There is a problem in landing aircraft at the airport due to the narrow runway.

A Tara Air aircraft crashed on the runway of Jumla Airport on June 9, 2018. There was no human casualty in the accident. The initiative to upgrade the airport was started after this accident. Teams from CAAN have reached Jumla several times for the sole purpose of its upgradation. The DPR has also been prepared but the airport has not been upgraded. There are at least three to five daily flights at the airport. According to the airport office, the pilots are flying to and from Jumla despite the narrow and short runway which puts them at risk. 

Tara Air Pilot Prabhakar Ghimire said that the longer the runway the safer taking off and landing becomes. However, the runways in the Himalayan districts, including Jumla, are not very long. He said that there is an obligation to fly and land by taking risks.

Jumla Airport is considered safer than other districts in Karnali but it still needs to be upgraded. Frequent accidents have proved that the airport needs to be upgraded. “Even though it is a short runway, we manage to land,” Pilot Ghimire said, “It is safe to have a wide and long runway. But most airports in Nepal are cramped.”

Jumla Airport Chief Prakash Sharma said that flying large aircraft to and from Jumla is feasible, considering the passenger flow. “For that, upgrading of the airport is necessary,” he said, adding that the DPR has already been prepared and only its implementation is required.

At present, 18-seater aircraft are operating in Jumla, Dolpa, Mugu and Humla of Karnali. Among other districts of Karnali, Jumla has the highest passenger flow. “Many have a problem of not getting tickets. Therefore, there are prospects in operating large aircraft by upgrading the airport,” said Chief Sharma.

Karma Budha, deputy chief of the District Coordination Committee, said that even though the DPR was prepared two years ago, the CAAN and Buddha Air have not shown any interest in implementing it so far. “CAAN should focus on this.” He said that the authorities should start the work of upgrading the airport without any delay as there is a demand from the locals to upgrade the airport.

Although the runway is short and narrow, pilots have been flying to and from Jumla by taking risks which can be avoided. Budha also demanded that CAAN start the upgradation process as soon as possible.

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