A recent photo of ongoing construction works of the runway. Photo: Mohammad Habib/Republica
BHAIRAHAWA, May 14: The construction works of Gautam Buddha International Airport have seen yet another hurdle. The airport, which expected to begin test flights from September, has now undergone a shortage of construction materials, while the payments to the contractor are also put on hold without any reason.
Butwal Sub-metropolis has barred extracting sands and aggregates from the rivers for the project since the last two months.
Swasam Construction Pvt Ltd, local supplier for the Chinese civil contractor Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group, was told not to extract resources from rivers for which the supplier has a valid agreement.
Meanwhile, the project administration has stopped making payments to the contractors without definite reasons, which has affected project works.
This has thrown the project into uncertainty yet another time even as Prime Minister KP Oli, speaking at a conference of Buddhists in Vietnam two days ago, committed to complete the project soon and bring it into operation to ease visitors' travel.
The supplier had reached an agreement for extraction of sand and aggregate with the sub-metropolis at a unit price of Rs 6 per square meter of sand and aggregate. The quantity of extraction has been fixed at 17727 square meters.
Promoter of Swasam Construction Pvt Ltd Pritesh Raj Pokhrel complained that they are not allowed to extract resources even for the agreed volume.
Lack of sand and aggregate has halted the works of construction of runway and terminal building. Construction of runaway is in the last leg. The pace of works has almost come to a halt as the contractor has not been able to pay the laborers as well as the bills of fuel and other raw materials, according to the contractor's representatives.
Project's chief engineer Prabesh Adhikari however claimed that they have tried to get supply of the construction materials from other neighboring districts. Adhikari claimed that they shall ensure timely completion of the project.
The plan was to complete runway, other essential infrastructure like taxiway, strip way, perimeters, terminal buildings, and towers by the end of June and operate commercial flights from by mid-November.
Adhikari claimed that they have performed faster than the targeted deadline.
“We have planned to blacktop runway construction and taxiway within the next ten days,” claimed Adhikari. He however acknowledged that there have been delays in paying the contractor.
The delays are because of slow approval for budget release, according to government officials. The files related to paying bills have been sent to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, and Ministry of Finance. But the ministries have not endorsed payment orders. “The contractor has complained that it has no cash to pay the supplier because of the delay in payments, and it is very hard to get additional supply without clearing dues,” Adhikari said.
He also stated that they have reported the current problems of the project to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and the ministry. “We have got information that the Ministry of Finance has transferred Rs 700 million for the project on Monday and we are hopeful of getting the amount within few days,” added Adhikari.
The contractor has already received the portion of payment from the government of Nepal, but the payment from Asian Development Bank has been delayed as it takes time for paperwork to the Bank via different ministries.
The project has already suffered multiple time extensions after local supplier and Chinese contractors had disputes on payment for over a year. The works resumed in April 2017.