December 7, 2019 07:54 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, Dec 7: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the authorities concerned including the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation to stay construction work on the proposed Nijgadh airport in Bara district.
Responding to a public interest litigation filed by a group of lawyers including Ranju Hajur Pandey Chhetri, the single bench of Justice Tanka Bahadur Moktan ordered the government not to begin the airport construction work until a final order is issued.
Both the writ petitioners and government representatives have been summoned before the court for December 15 to discuss the issue.
A group of advocates and nature conservationists went to court on Monday, demanding that the airport be constructed somewhere else, but not in Nijgadh. They argue that if the second international airport is constructed in Nijgadh, it could cause a huge loss to the ecological system as a big chunk of forest land will need to be cleared.
Activists have long been campaigning against the government’s plan to build a second international airport in Bara district.
In the PIL filed at the apex court, the petitioners also claimed that there is no proper Environment Impact Assessment. They have been suggesting Murtiya in Sarlahi district instead of Nijgadh for the location of the new airport.
The interim order comes at a time when the government was all set to begin pre-construction work on the airport.
Last month, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Yogesh Bhattarai, had stated that he would demarcate the boundaries for the construction of the airport immediately and “take a decision regarding the land within this month [November]”.
The ministry wants to start site clearance and begin road construction in the first phase of construction.
Nijgadh airport is one of the government’s top priority projects and is categorized as a national pride project.
The Investment Board Nepal (IBN) on September 23 shortlisted Zurich Airport International AG for the construction of the airport. Seven companies had submitted letters of intent for the project but IBN shortlisted only Zurich Airport International AG, stating that its LOI alone matched the eligibility criteria set by the board.
The project is to be developed on a public-private partnership model.
The estimated cost for the construction of Nijgadh International Airport is Rs 670 billion.
The board had showcased the airport project during the Investment Summit 2019 held in March.