DHANGADHI, Feb 10: Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has prepared a 20-year master plan to upgrade Dhangadhi Airport into an international airport.
CAAN officials made a presentation on the master plan in the presence of Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai and other stakeholders on Sunday. The aviation regulator had awarded the contract to prepare the master plan to Realpath Engineering Consultant Pvt Ltd.
"According to the master plan, the project is estimated to cost Rs 20 billion – Rs 5 billion for land acquisition and Rs 15 billion for infrastructure development," Rajan Pokhrel, director general of CAAN, said at the presentation.
The project has to be implemented in three phases. Guru Dutt Adhikari, director of Realpath Engineering Consultant Pvt Ltd, said the required land has to be acquisitioned by 2024. "In the second phase, a 2,550-meter runway will be built by 2030. The runway will be 30 meters wide," he said, adding that other remaining infrastructures will be built in the third phase which will conclude in 2040.
The existing runway is 1,800 meters long.
CAAN will have to acquire 244 bigha of land for the project. According to Pokharel, implementation of master plan will begin from the next fiscal year.
Speaking at the program, Minister Bhattarai said the airport up-gradation plan will be started at the earliest. "The government is committed about implementing the master plan," he added.
However, local leaders of political parties, tourism entrepreneurs and civil society leaders have expressed their dissatisfaction over the timeframe of the project. "It is unfair that the Sudurpashchim Province has to wait for 20 years to get an international airport, while other cities like Pokhara and Lumbini are getting international airports in just five-six years," Gopal Hamal, a tourism entrepreneur, said.
Similarly, Rana Bahadur Chand, secretary of Kailali district committee of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), said Sudurpashchim Province desperately needs an international airport as hundreds and thousands of people are working in Indian cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. "Regular flights to Indian cities should be started by upgrading Dhangadhi Airport into an international airport at the earliest," he added.
Similarly, Prakash Bam, vice-chairperson of Kailali district committee of Nepali Congress, said there should be no delay in upgrading Dhangadhi Airport.
Pushpa Kunwar, chairperson of Kailali Chamber of Commerce and Industries, called upon the tourism ministry to start flights to mountainous districts of Sudurpashchim Province by developing Dhangadi into a hub airport. "We request the government to first upgrade it into a regional airport and gradually to international airport," he added.