Nagidanda, which is located between Panauti and Banepa, is one of the sites surveyed on Tuesday. Photo: Madhusudan Guragain/Republica
BANEPA, May 2: Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation is planning to build an alternative airport in Kavrepalanchok district in order to reduce traffic congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
As the increasing number of flights is causing flight delays and even cancellations, the ministry felt that building a new airport is the only alternative to deal with the situation, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Rabindra Adhikari, said after making field visits to proposed sites of Kavre on Tuesday.
Officials of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and a group of experts visited three sits in Panauti, Banepa and Dhulikhel municipalities of Kavre on Tuesday.
The team visited Nagidanda of Panauti, Thulichaur near Devithan of Dhulkhel and Thulichaur Chisapani of Patlekhet on Tuesday. Prior to this, preliminary study has also been conducted in Bhakundebesi and Pachkhal.
“We will select the best site among them for alternative airport,” Minister Adhikari told Republica. He also directed CAAN to form a group of experts for survey of all these sites and submit report to the ministry within 15 days.
"After receiving the report, we will allocate budget for the project in the coming fiscal year,” he added.
Similarly, Sanjeev Gautam, director general of CAAN, said that his office was studying the feasibility of building a short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft under the Domestic Aircraft Divert Plan. “We are building the airport at Kavre targeting domestic flights, mountain flights and helicopter flights,” Gautam said. “Traffic congestion at TIA will come down by around 20 percent if the project materializes.”
According to CAAN officials, the alternative airport will have a 1,200-meter runway and the capacity to park up to 30 aircraft.
“Though some are saying that there is no need to build alternative airport saying that two new international airports are coming up, we think we should be prepared for the future considering the increasing number of air passengers,” Gautam said.
According to Gautam, number of air passengers is doubling every 15 years and air passengers footfall in Nepal is increasing by 8 percent every year. “So, alternative airport is a necessity for us,” he added.
The concept of alternative airport in Kavre was first raised in 2012.
Local representatives of Dhulikhel say that Nagidanda could be the best site for the alternative airport.
An aviation expert also said that Nagidanda looks more visible compared to three sites visited on Tuesday. “Nagi Danda is the most suitable of the three sites as it has road access from three sides. It is also connected to the Araniko Highway," the expert said, adding: “As the Araniko Highway is being upgraded into a six-lane road in the near future, there won't be traffic congestion. Air passengers can drive to the airport easily.”
Nagidanda lies only three kilometers away from Araniko Highway. According to CAAN, 65 hectares of land will be needed to build the airport.
“Private sector is always with the government to build the alternative airport in Kavre. Not only foreigners, we are also suffering for traffic congestion at TIA,” Sur Krishna Baidhya, central member of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), said. “The private sector is ready to contribute in the project if the government brings a policy of ensuring participation of private sector in such infrastructure work.”
Currently, 30 airlines, including two Nepali airlines, are operating international flights to and from TIA, while 18 airlines companies, including those operating helicopters, are operating domestic flights from the TIA.
TIA is handling 319 domestic flights and around 100 international flights every day, according to CAAN.