Minister for Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai. Photo: Republica/Files
KATHMANDU, Sept 22: Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Yogesh Bhattarai has said that the under-construction Pokhara Regional International Airport is expected to come into operation before the stipulated time.
Highlighting the fast progress in the construction of the airport, Bhattarai stated that the airport was likely to come into operation by the end of 2020. Organizing an informal press meet on Saturday, the minister had briefed about the ministry’s ongoing works.
“Looking at the progress, the airport will be ready six months prior to its stipulated date,” Bhattarai said, “The construction of the airport was supposed to be completed by June 2021 but it might be completed within December 2020.”
Besides Nepal-India cross border petrol pipeline project, Pokhara International Airport has been another project seeing rapid progress, according to Bhattarai.
On the other hand, since his assuming office 50 days ago, Minister Bhattarai has been stating that the Gautam Buddha Regional International Airport will be inaugurated within 2020.
“It might take some time for the airport to come into full operation because of the preparatory works that are needed for the operation,” he said, adding, “Gautam Buddha Airport’s operation will not cross the month March as the preparations will finish in about three months.”
The ministry is planning to introduce packages for airlines interested to fly at Gautam Buddha Airport. “The packages are to attract airlines companies,” said Bhattarai.
Meanwhile, the government, in response to the European Union’s ban on Nepali airlines, has been putting forward the EI points Nepal has secured for 2019. According to the Aviation Safety Report 2019, Nepal’s effective implementation (EI) stands at 66.76 percent which is higher than International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) benchmark of 60 percent for the Global Aviation Safety Plan-GASP target.
Addressing the air safety concerns, the tourism minister said that there will be no compromising in regard to air safety, and stressed on need to improve continuously. The government is also planning on making the visa service easier by enabling online payment system for tourists. According to the ministry, the country’s sole international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), has the capacity to serve 8 million passengers but it is catering to only 4.5 million passengers. The government is planning to use the airport to its fullest capacity by increasing air movement during the times when the movement is low.
“We can increase the number of flights between 5 AM to 8 AM as it is the time when the movement is low in the airport,” he said. “Also airport slots in the TIA are vacant so the airport should be put into maximum use.”