KATHMANDU, June 29: National Concerns and Coordination Committee (NCCC) under National Assembly on Friday directed the government to decide at the earliest the construction modality for the Nijgadh International Airport.
The parliamentary committee, which mainly oversees national pride projects, gave the directive after holding discussions with stakeholders of the proposed second international airport. The directive comes amid concerns from various quarters that the delay by the government in finalizing a construction modality has rendered the project in limbo.
Although successive governments have been talking about the airport for the past several years, it is still unclear whether the government wants to build the airport on its own or through Public Private Partnership (PPP).
Sources said the government had expedited informal negotiations with several foreign countries including Qatar to develop the airport under government-to-government (G2G) model Rabindra Adhikari was tourism minister. Minister Adhikari died in a helicopter accident in February.
According to the secretary of the NCCC Sudarshan Kuinkel, the meeting also directed the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation to give permission to clear the forest for the construction of the airport runway and other airport infrastructure as per the detailed feasibility study of the project. Sources said a file regarding the forest clearance permission remains stuck at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation.
Environmentalists and conservationists are against the plan to clear the forest arguing that it will have serious impact on the environment and wild animals. Keeping this in view, the parliamentary committee has directed the forest ministry to ensure that not a single tree more than necessary is felled.
Secretary Kuinkel said the parliamentary committee also directed the government to make necessary arrangements for the relocation of the squatter settlements in the Tangiya area, which falls under the airport project area. Some 1,500 households of squatters are currently living in the Tangiya area. “The committee has directed the government to immediately start work to relocate the squatters elsewhere,” said Kuinkel.
The parliamentary committee had invited senior officials from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, and the officials of the Nijgadh International Airport Construction Project for discussions.
CAAN Director General Rajan Pokhrel said a cabinet decision is needed to permit forest clearance. “A file to this effect is currently stuck at the Ministry of Forests,” he said, adding that they are ready to expedite construction work once cabinet gives its nod.
The chief of the National Pride Project under CAAN, Pradip Adhikari, however said that the airport construction work cannot be expedited until the government decides the construction modality. He also ruled out the possibility of developing the mega project through private sector investment.
Officials had said that they had already initiated process to relocate the squatter settlement in Tangiya area to Jataha Herbs Area.
Most lawmakers speaking in the meeting had argued that mega project like Nijgadh International Airport, which can potentially bring huge economic transformation for the country, should not be obstructed over environmental considerations.