KATHMANDU, Feb 9: Tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari has said that all paperwork and other preliminary works for Nijgadh International Airport (NIA) will be completed within three months, and the construction will commence immediately afterwards.
Speaking at a meeting organized by Nepal Engineer’s Association (NEA) in Kathmandu on Friday, Minister Adhikari said: “It is a project of top priority for the government, as it holds the promise of economic growth of the country.”
“The project has already been very much delayed. We have to begin it as soon as possible,” he said. “The ministry is ready to face any challenges that may come up during the construction.”
“When we started work, different forces started attacking from all sides. Earlier, there was no problem, but suddenly, when we are about to build the airport, everybody has started finding faults with it,” he added.
He also argued that the project’s Detailed Feasibility Study and Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) ensure that it will be an environment-friendly project.
“This project has not deviated from the concept of sustainable development. We will complete our work with accountability,” he claimed.
The minister added that the government was mulling government-to-government (G2G) partnership on the project, but if there was no viable partnership, the government would build the project on its own.
Speaking on the occasion, engineers recommended Adhikari to take the project forward along with further studies on environmental, financial, and technical issues.
Engineer Birendra Bahadur Deuja said that the result of second international airport (SIA) could be seen only after 20-25 years. “The problems of air congestion, travel safety, and flight holding at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) are some of the major reasons behind building this airport. The TIA alone cannot handle the increasing air traffic of Nepal.”
Using the western air route is needed to reduce the air congestion of Nepal for both national and international flights, he added.
“Since 1980, the project continues to feature in the country’s periodic plans. But it has never got enough attention from the authorities,” he said.
Likewise, engineer Suraj Raj Acharya said the country’s weak system of infrastructure development was affecting the project, adding that the SIA would be a game changer for the country.
“Authorities should, however, ensure that the norm of sustainable development is followed and environmental issues are addressed in this project,” he said.
Former vice chairman of National Planning Commission Jagdish Chandra Pokharel asked the minister to ensure transparency in the entire process of implementing the project.
“Nijgadh will not only be a transit airport, but an international hub in itself,” he said. “It is not going to be just an alternative airport. The scope of this airport should be considered while developing it.”
He recommended the government to study the impact on wildlife due to the construction of the airport.
Meanwhile, Pradip Adhikari, chief of national pride projects at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said: “The project site is 20 kilometers away from wildlife settlement. Despite the claims, we did not start the project without any study. We have considered social and technical issues in detail.”