KAILALI, June 13: There was a time when Tikapur in Kailali used to see the operation of flights to several destinations including Nepalgunj, Kathmandu and other hilly districts in the far west.
It was a time when the hill districts in Sudurpaschim Province had limited or almost no access (in case of some districts) to motor roads. People traveling to the hill districts had to travel by air or on foot. It took at least three days to reach Achham on foot from Kailali.
The airport was shut during the armed conflict in the country. Tikapur people who hoped to see the resumption of the airport after the end of the conflict are left disappointed. With the country entering the peace process, encroachment on the airport further escalated. Hundreds of huts were constructed there. Eventually, after the consent of all stakeholders to bring the airport into operation, the freed Kamaiya (bonded workers) who had been staying on the airport premises shifted to elsewhere.
Millions of rupees were spent on evacuating the airport, said Tikaram Jaishi, then chairman of the airport management committee.
The evacuation followed the airport reconstruction works and the operation of a test flight as well. During the test flight, it was realized the structures/houses nearby the airport caused hurdles in the operation of smooth flights.
“We did everything possible to re-operate the airport, but to no avail,” said Tikapur Chamber of Commerce and Industry Association President Ram Bahadur Bhandi.
Two years back, the locals presented a memorandum in this regard to the then Tourism and Civil Aviation Ministry during the Tikapur festival. The then minister took the call very positively and a team of experts was sent here for the study, said Tikapur Municipality Mayor Tapendra Bahadur Rawal.
Upon knowing that the airport was not suitable for the smooth operation due to its narrow space and nearby structures, the local stakeholders concerned agreed to exchange the airport land with the land owned by the Stadium and Sports Development Committee. “Later we came to know that the study team did not submit the file to the related department and the ministry said it could not proceed to that end in the absence of official documents. We are told that coordination between two related ministries is required to endorse the land exchange agreement and once it happens, the airport construction works will kick off," explained the mayor.