BHAIRAHAWA, July 10: The construction of Gautam Buddha International Airport has been affected as technicians and equipment required for the airport project are stuck abroad due to COVID-19.
Though the construction has not been completely stalled yet, the much-awaited airport project is also facing the impact of the pandemic now.
The international airport dubbed as a national pride project of the country started in December 2014. Like other development projects, this project too faces the fate of procrastination and delay.
According to project officials, over 250 workers including 29 Chinese are working at the project site even during the lockdown to give a final shape to the remaining structures of the airport.
However, some equipment and skilled technicians are stuck in China, Thailand and Australia, among other countries, hampering the progress of the construction.
“The construction works that can be done from the existing workforce are being carried out. Almost all construction works are in the final stage. Now, we are making an all-out effort to bring those equipment as soon as possible,” said Prabesh Adhikari, the project director at GBIA.
Almost all equipment under the first phase of the project, known as ICB-1, has been installed while the project has already received 95 percent of equipment related to communication, navigation and surveillance under the second phase (ICB-2), according to Adhikari.
He also said that they are holding discussions to bring the rest of the equipment and skilled technicians from Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (AEROTHAI).
Some Chinese equipment of the project that were stuck in China are also on their way to Nepal, he said. All equipment that will be imported through sea and land routes are expected to be delivered at the airport by July end.
During the lockdown, the project gave continuity to various works like building a fourth taxiway, fencing, coloring and wiring, among other works, he said. The project also stockpiled riverbed materials required for the remaining construction and building the inner perimeter of the airport. Shortage of riverbed materials owing to disputes with local governments has long plagued the project.
According to Adhikari, the project has achieved 91 percent of physical progress so far. However, the project, which was scheduled to be completed by March end, has already sought a deadline extension with the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) till December. This will be the fourth deferral of the deadline for the completion of the project.
The first phase of the project (ICB-1) with a total cost of Rs 6.82 billion is undertaken by Chinese firm Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group while the second phase (ICB-2) was awarded to AEROTHAI at Rs 500 million.