It need not be emphasized how important Gautam Buddha International Airport is for Nepal—for alternative airport, for tourism and economic development of Province 5 and rest of the country and for capitalizing on Lumbini—the birthplace of Lord Buddha—as the international hub of Buddhist tourism. Test flights are scheduled to start from September there and commercial flights are supposed to start from November. Nepal Airlines Corporation has also planned to start flights between Bhairahawa and Bangkok once this airport comes into operation. Despite the huge potentials it holds and the urgent need to complete remaining works of construction on time, construction works meet with easily preventable hurdles time and again. For example, the contractor halted the works citing shortage of construction materials and delay in payment. When Butwal Sub-metropolis prohibited Swasam Construction Pvt Ltd, local supplier for the Chinese civil contractor Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group, from extracting sand and aggregates from the local rivers, it adversely affected the construction works of the airport. When project administration delayed payments to the contractors without definite reason, it gave them another excuse to halt the work. As a result, construction of runway and terminal building, which is at the final stage, stopped abruptly. Reportedly, works have resumed but this case offers an example of how small hurdles create big disturbance in construction of national pride projects.
If the local and provincial governments had taken necessary measures to ensure smooth supply of materials, construction works would not have met an abrupt obstruction. And if Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Finance had made the payment process easy, the contractors would not get the excuse to cite it as the major reason for dereliction of duty. Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has been appealing foreigners from international forums to come and visit Lumbini. While speaking at a conference of Buddhists in Vietnam two days ago, Oli committed to complete the project soon and bring it into operation to ease visitors’ travel. Back home, the major infrastructure work was being obstructed. What happened in Gautam Buddha Airport should not happen with other national projects. But as things stand, national pride projects like Melamchi Drinking Water Project and Sikta Irrigation Project have been facing perennial delay. Melamchi project has not moved further an inch after the Italian contractor left it half way citing payment issue. Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation has not been able to resume work. Other national pride projects face the same fate.
National pride projects should not be facing preventable hurdles especially when we have the strong government with powers to mobilize resources to get them complete on time. With inter-ministerial coordination and right intervention at the right moment, the government can accomplish these projects on time. Bheri Babai irrigation project has become the success story of our time. With greater political will national projects can be completed much faster. For this, the government needs to put them in utmost priority. Government has been criticized for failing to perform on many fronts. If it could get at least a few of national projects accomplished on time, people will surely give it a credit.