April 19, 2019 01:05 AM NPT
By: DB BUDHA
The runway of Jumla Airport being blacktopped in this recent photo. Photo: DB BUDHA
Flights halted once again due to repairs
JUMLA, April 19: Flight services have come to a grinding halt at Jumla Airport once again "due to repairs." Earlier in October last year, the authorities had closed the airport for two months citing repairs.
Air travel is of utmost importance to the people in this remote zone as there are no easy roadways for transportation. Locals are unhappy with the authorities for taking a 'silly' decision of going ahead with the repairs at an 'odd' time. They say the lack of flights or instant travel to hospitals in case of emergencies may now even take the lives of patients and pregnant women, among others.
Upon the recommendation of the Airport Security Committee, repair work at the airport had earlier started on October 22, with the authorities halting flight services for two months. The repair work was midway when the authorities decided to put it on hold due to cold. According to Jumla locals, the decision to go for repair work without keeping the climate and weather conditions in mind is an irresponsible one.
“They knew that repair works could not proceed in sub-zero temperature. Yet, they started the work,” said a local of Sija village, Ran Bahadur Kadayat. “Even a layman has that much of common sense, they are technicians. After failing to blacktop the runway due to cold, they left the work unfinished hampering flights,” he added.
Had the airport authorities not started the work in winter and rather done it after the arrival of summer, people would not be affected, according to Kadayat. “The repair work should have been completed just in a month or a little more. Or, they simply shouldn't have started it at all.”Around 390 meters of the runway has been blacktopped so far. Due to the ongoing work at the rest of the 280 meters of the runway, the airport is going to remain closed for 20 more days, according to the officials.
“Earlier it was closed for two months. Then they operated flights for a few days, then again now they say it's closed for 20 days. This is so disappointing,” Kadayat said. “This is a huge inconvenience for us.”
Another local of the village, Jagat Bahadur Rokaya, was of the opinion that the authorities should take some emergency measures to open the airport. “It's not the right time to repair the airport. They cannot make us locals pay for an ill-timed decision. They should do something to resume flights at the airport,” he said.The repairs had become necessary, according to airport chief Kailash Sharma. Blacktopping the runway needs a 'good' temperature. “If the minimum temperature is around 18 degree Celsius, we can work,” he said, “We could not blacktop the runway in winter due to extreme cold."
He explained that the contractor might have started working then due to some 'due process'. “The work was started, but then stopped as the temperature started dipping. Now again, repair work has moved ahead,” Sharma said.
He claimed that the repairs would be completed in 20 days, this time and flights will resume right after that. The airport is being repaired at the cost of Rs 5.2 million.
“The work got affected also due to the lack of skilled human resource, necessary equipment; the tough location needs no exaggeration,” Sharma further said.