KATHMANDU, Dec 8: A day after the Supreme Court directed the authorities concerned of the government to put on hold the construction of the proposed Nijgadh International Airport until the final verdict, Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Yogesh Bhattarai, has said that he is ready to explain to the apex court why there is no alternative to constructing the proposed international airport in Nijgadh.
Addressing a function organized to mark the founding anniversary of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the capital on Saturday, Minister Bhattarai said that the apex court seems to be wanting to know the rationale behind the construction of the proposed international airport in Bara. “None of the organs of the state can act as an hindrance to this project. But as it appears that the Supreme Court wishes to be clear on this issue, it is the responsibility of the government to explain the matter to the court,” he said.
While arguing that the project carries huge national importance and is significant for the country’s future itself, Minister Bhattarai said that the preparatory works of the airport shall continue as the apex court has only invited the government for discussions. “Of course, we should not to go to the field [after the apex court’s order]. But we can continue paper works of the airport,” he further said.
Minister Bhattarai complained that a section of people were trying to derail the project by bringing out highly exaggerated number of trees that need to be fell down and a fictitious data related to the effects this may leave on the environment. The minister also underscored the need to counter such propaganda aimed at thwarting the project that has the potential to change the country’s fate and future.
Responding to a public interest litigation filed by a group of lawyers including Ranju Hajur Pandey Chhetri, a single bench of Justice Tanka Bahadur Moktan of the apex court on Friday ordered the government not to begin the airport construction work until a final order is issued. Both the writ petitioners and government representatives have been summoned before the court for December 15 to discuss the issue.
A group of advocates and nature conservationists knocked the door of apex court earlier on Monday, demanding that the construction of the proposed airport be relocated to elsewhere from Nijgadh. They argued that if an international airport is constructed in Nijgadh, it could cause a huge loss to the ecological system as a big chunk of forest land will have to be cleared.
Activists have long been campaigning against the government’s plan to build a second international airport in Bara district. In the PIL filed at the apex court, the petitioners also claimed that no proper Environment Impact Assessment has been carried out for the project. They have been suggesting that the airport going to be built in Nijgadh be relocated to Murtiya in Sarlahi district.
The interim order has come at a time when the government was all set to begin pre-construction work on the airport. Last month, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Yogesh Bhattarai, had stated that he would demarcate the boundaries for the construction of the airport immediately and “take a decision regarding the land within this month [November]”.
Minister Bhattarai has maintained that although the expansion of the parking area and taxi way at the country’s only international airport in Kathmandu could help address the problem of airplane-holding to some extent, there is no alternative to the construction of the proposed Nijgadh International Airport for a complete solution to this problem, given the increasing frequency of flights to and from Kathmandu.