April 16: Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), Rajan Pokhrel, informed that the country does not have any alternative other than developing Nijgad International Airport for the future of the Nepali aviation industry.
According to Pokhrel, none of the existing airports including Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA), and Pokhara International Airport (PIA) can hold the growing air traffic in the future.
Director-General Pokharel shared that the air traffic in Nepal and the Asia Pacific region has grown immensely. It will continue to grow further after the Covid-19 situation improves, he added.
However, he opines that neither TIA nor the under-construction national pride projects GBIA and PIA will have enough capacity to hold the increasing flow of aircraft.
The air traffic will grow immensely in contrary to the space of these airports. The airports won't have enough space to cope with the traffic, Pokharel told New Business Age.
He added that none of the three airports are expandable due to the space limitation of the airports.
Neither of TIA, on construction GBIA and PIA, have space for further expansion.
However, Nijgadh International Airport is capable of dealing with the projected traffic growth, he shared.
According to Pokharel, Nijgadh International Airport is best suited to cope with the air traffic pressure because of its location and availability of space.
"The proposed airport project is close to the capital - only 75 km away through the under-construction fast track. Likewise, the project covers 1,900 hectares of land which is expandable to 8,000 more hectares, to the full capacity," informed Pokharel.
The proposed airport in Nijgad has multiple advantages. The airport will handle jumbo-jets, including the largest passenger aircraft Airbus A-380. Since Nepal is a landlocked country, it can be crucial for receiving and sending out heavy cargo for the benefit of the economy, he adds.
Meanwhile, the airport project has been receiving widespread backlash from environmental activists for the number of trees needed to be felled.
However, Pokhrel says such criticism is pointless and against the development of the country. He shared that people have manipulated the issues and caused riots against the project. It is an exaggeration is that millions of trees have to be cut down. But in reality, there the actual number of trees that need to be chopped off is far less. According to Pokharel, around 100,000 trees need to be felled for the airport construction.
“We aren't starting the project in 8,000 hectares of land. The site in the initial phase will only cover an area of 1900 hectares. Likewise, it doesn't have the dense forest as described,” he said.
He added that trees and mostly bushes or shrubs need to be cleaned in the initial phase.
The full-fledged construction of the airport is estimated to cost USD 3.45 billion. Earlier, the government had authorized Zurich Airport to develop the project. The Swiss company withdrew from the project last year.
The government of Nepal had set an aim to develop the airport through FDI. The airport project had received investment commitment from eight investors, including Zurich International Airport, GMR group of India, and a Qatari company.