June 29: The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has reached an understanding with the Department of Forest and Land Conservation for clearing trees of Rithepani hill, which has been obstructing flights at Pokhara Regional International Airport since a long time.
The two government bodies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this regard, allowing the CAAN to downsize the hill which has been causing problems in take-off and landing of aircraft at the airport which is being upgraded with an investment of Rs 18 billion.
CAAN spokesperson Jagannath Niraula broke the news on Tuesday after signing the agreement. Deputy Director General of the Department of Forest and Land Conservation Nawaraj Pudasaini on behalf of the department and Hansraj Pandey on behalf of CAAN signed the MoU on Tuesday in the presence of Director General of the department Rajendra KC.
Niraula said that it would take about five months to cut down the trees. About 97 percent work of the airport is already completed. The hill has been reportedly obstructing international flights.
After the agreement, the hill will be downsized and after some time, calibration flight and test flights will be conducted.
The Ministry of Forests and Environment had approved the supplementary environmental impact assessment report in May.
Airport chief Binesh Munakarmi informed that one side of the hill needs to be reduced by 40 meters and the other side by 12.5 meters. The hill lies towards the east of the airport.
The total cost of upgrading the airport has been projected to cost Rs 22 billion while Rs 5 billion has been spend on land acquisition.
The construction of the vital infrastructure of the airport has been completed. According to Munankarmi, construction of 14 buildings is already completed. Aprons, taxi-way and runways have been already constructed. Cargo, hangar, terminal and other buildings are among the 14 buildings that have been constructed so far. According to him, just the beautification and finishing works are left.
Initiated in 2010, this airport of national pride was said to be completed in 4 years. However, the loan agreement was signed between the Government of Nepal and China only in February, 2016, with the target to complete it by 2020. The project deadline was extended after the construction works could not be completed on time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.