POKHARA, Dec 14: After making progress in the construction of Pokhara Regional International Airport, authorities are now grappling with the locals' protests over land acquisition, which is set to create some roadblocks for the project if not delay it.
As of now, the second international regional airport project is scheduled to be completed by July 2021. While other development projects of the country have been facing consistent delays, this project has shown signs of considerable progress so far, giving hope that it could get completed within the deadline.
Locals are protesting the government's latest decision to acquire 148 ropani of land for the project, stating that the government should acquire land all at once instead of doing it in bits and pieces.
This is the seventh time that the government is acquiring land for the airport.
Ganesh Poudel, chairperson of local Public Concern Committee, questioned the technicians' ability, stating that they have been unable to give a proper estimate of land needed for the project. "They should know what technology is being used and how much land is needed for the airport. Why does the government acquire land every now and then? We suspect if the intention is to trouble the local people," he said.
“We thought land acquisition was over and made houses on our land. Now we will be homeless if the government takes away the land,” said Poudel. “The government does not understand the pain of being homeless.” There are 16 houses in the land that the government has decided to acquire.
"This time we won't give the land at any cost. We have already made big contribution for the airport, but the government has totally ignored us," said Poudel. According to Poudel, this is third time that he facing risk of displacement.
According to Binesh Munkarmi, head of the airport project, additional land is required to build guide path that is needed to guide aircraft for landing.
"Before this, 25 ropani of land was set aside for guide path. But that turned out to be insufficient," said Munkarmi. "The current land area is not even sufficient for building fuel depot and keeping security forces."
According to Munkarmi, additional land would not be required for operation of flights in 2021 but for future when the air traffic would go up. "We won't have any issue for now regarding operation of flights but in future, the increase in air traffic will require construction of a hanger. Number of air travelers will go up. International operators will want to park their craft in Pokhara," said Munkarmi, "Keeping in mind the requirement of future, we plan to occupy additional land now."
Before this, erstwhile Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari had stopped acquisition of land as he thought it was not required. According to Munkarmi, at that time it was stopped but now it is considered essential. “We won't acquire land without discussing with the locals. We will try as much as possible to address their demands,” said Munkarmi.
According to the project administration, runway and apron have already been constructed. There is parking space for 11 aircrafts – three big aircraft and eight smaller domestic aircraft. Taxi-way has also been constructed, which is used for taking aircraft to the parking space from the runway. At the moment, construction of terminal building is going on.