POKHARA, JUNE 29: The road to cross the Ritthepani hill that falls on the eastern side of the approach of the Pokhara Regional International Airport, whose physical infrastructure is in the final stages of construction, has been opened. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the regulatory body for the airspace, and the Forest Department reached an agreement only on Tuesday to cut down the hill and the trees there.
According to CAAN Spokesperson Jagannath Niraula, the process for cutting the hill and the trees was started as they were likely to cause trouble during landing and take-off. He said that the way has been opened for cutting down 600 trees including the hill after an agreement with the department.
"It's not just about cutting down trees. The height of the hill should also be reduced,” he said, "The process was lengthened as it was not allowed to cut down trees without the consent of the forest department. But now it will be easier.”
CAAN had prepared a supplementary environmental impact assessment report of Pokhara Regional International Airport for cutting down the hill and trees. According to the same report, 600 trees will be cut down. "Now that the agreement has been reached, the tender process will begin. Due to the rainy season and the tender process, the cutting down of trees was delayed,” he said, “It will start as soon as possible now.”
He said that the height of the hill should be reduced from 14 to 40 meters. Mountains and trees of 40 ropanis of land will be cut down. The hill is 1.35 km away from the eastern border of the airport. According to Niraula, the CAAN has set a target of bringing the Pokhara airport into operation from January 1. “The problem of cutting down the hills will now be solved. Hence, Pokhara should be interested in relocating the landfill site,” he said.
Two hills in Ritthepaani need to be cut down. There is Sal, Chilaune, Katus and other trees on these hills. The landfill site at Bachhebuduwa, that is 1.5 km away from the airport, where Pokhara Metropolitan City had been dumping garbage needs to be relocated but the work has not yet been started. Experts have been saying that the airport could be at risk since birds are attracted to the airport due to the garbage of the landfill site. It is the responsibility of Pokhara Metropolitan City to relocate the landfill site.
On April 13, 2016, the then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone of the Pokhara Regional International Airport. The Chinese construction company China CAMCE, which took over the construction of the airport on July 10, 2021 started work a year and a half after the foundation stone was laid. In the meantime, coronavirus infection spread. However, the Chinese company continued to accelerate the construction of the airport.
On March 26 this year, the construction company handed over the airport to the Nepal government after completing 93 percent of the work. The airport is now fully ready for operations.
According to Krishna Prasad Poudel, deputy manager of the project, “In some areas, there is no work left to do except fencing and internal cleaning. An A-grade airport has been built,” Poudel said, “An infrastructure worth taking pride in has been built”.
According to Kedar Baral, forest officer at the District Forest Office, Kaski, 600 trees on the hill will be cut down. Of these, 84 are large trees. The remaining 516 are small trees up to 30 cm in diameter. According to Baral, CAAN should hand over the forest by planting 10 new saplings for every tree cut down.