July 10: A committee formed by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has recommended rejecting the proposal of Munich International Airport of Germany to operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA), which is under construction at Bhairahawa. According to ministry officials, the recommendation was presented due to some legal complications in the proposal presented by Munich.
The cabinet meeting held on May 30, 2019 had decided to operate the Gautam Buddha International Airport on the basis of government-to-government (G2G) agreement instead of open competition. After the decision, Munich Airport had sent a formal proposal to MoCTCA and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) on June 2019. Munich had offered to give it the responsibility to operate the airport for 50 years.
Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint secretary at MoCTCA said that although Munich’s offer seemed technically appropriate, it is recommended to cancel the proposal as it had legal complications and ambiguity. Lamichhane is the coordinator of the committee formed by the ministry to hand over responsibility for the operation of the airport. Representatives of NAC, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are in the committee.
According to Lamichhane, the committee had assessed the proposal and recommended the government to reject it a few days ago. “Our recommendation is based on some legal complications in the Munich’s proposal. Now further decision will be taken by the government,” he said.
According to him, the government had called for proposal through G2G, but only one proposal was received. Due to some provision in Public Procurement Act, the proposal cannot be accepted at the moment. “Munich’s proposal is rejected because it is important to know whether any proposal is legally correct or not before accepting,” he mentioned.
The government had preparations to complete the construction work by December 2019, and start the operation from March 2020. However, completion of the construction of the project has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As per the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai, preparations are being made to complete the work by the end of 2020 and start flights from March 2021. “The pandemic has definitely pushed us back. However, we will complete the construction work by 2020 end and start operation of flights by March 2021,” he said.
As there were no proposals from other countries, there was higher possibility that the German company would have been awarded the contract. But, after their proposal is rejected, there is confusion as to how to proceed after the airport’s construction is completed. Lamichhane said that the government could operate the airport from its own resources and manpower even if no other proposals are received at the moment. “The global marketing and expansion would have been easier with Munich. However, we must prepare for operation ourselves as that possibility has been reduced at the moment due to corona,” he said.
Construction period extended due to Corona
Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group, a Chinese government-owned company, was assigned to complete the construction of the airport by December 2017. But due to various reasons, the construction deadline was extended for multiple times. This has been again extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to ministry officials, 91 percent of the works have been completed and the construction of a runway and link taxiway connecting the parking bay has been finished during the lockdown period. Spokesperson of the ministry, Rudra Singh Tamang said that the work of connecting the runway lights has reached the final stage. Similarly, work of installing air conditioning in the terminal building has been started during the shutdown and decoration work is underway. Currently, 275 workers including 29 Chinese have been mobilised for the construction of the airport.