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Gautam Buddha International Airport ‘unlikely’ to be complete by July 2019

- Post Report, Kathmandu

The government’s plan to commence the commercial operation of the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa by next July is unlikely to materialise due to delays in the implementation of the second phase of the project.


The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) had hoped to issue bids for the second phase of the project, which involves Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (ANS) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems, by June. “However, it’s September now and the bids’ documents are still stuck at Caan,” said an official at Caan who chose to remain anonymous. The document was sent by the project to its headquarters in May to review it.


“Even if the tender notice is issued in September, it’s not possible to complete the project before December 2019,” he said.


According to a Caan expert, the tender process takes 90 days, while the evaluation of the documents will take another 30. After the evaluation of the documents, it will take Caan another seven days to issue the letter of intent and another 15 days to award the tender.


The project will then be forwarded to the contractor, who will be given at least 60 days. The Factory Accepting Test of the equipment and its delivery will take another 30 days. After the delivery, the installation works will take 90 days, and another 30 days will be allocated to commission the flight test of the equipment. “If all goes smoothly, altogether 380 days should be allocated to concerned authorities to commercially begin the navigation and surveillance system at the airport,” said the expert, who did not wish to be named.  


Caan is planning to install an Instrument Landing System (ILS), which allows approaches and landings even in poor weather conditions. There are different standards of ILS, including CAT I, CAT II and CAT III. Aircrafts can land at the airport at the visibility of 550 metres under the CAT I system, while CAT II enables aircraft to land at the minimum visibility of 350 metres.


According to some officials, Caan has been assessing the cost of installing CAT II from the initially planned CAT I system. But, it has not reached any decision yet, for they are apprehensive that the project cost will increase.
However, the expert said that the cost will not increase significantly as there will be change on a certain component only. “Caan is unnecessarily delaying the project progress,” he said.  


As of now, the base of the 3,000m-long and 45m-wide runway has been prepared and the blacktopping of the runway is expected to begin this month, according to the project officials.


Caan awarded the Rs6.22-billion Gautam Buddha Airport an upgradation contract to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013. The airport was initially slated to be ready by December 2017.
However, shortages of fuel and building materials due to the months-long Tarai banda in 2015 delayed the upgradation works by six months, and its operation deadline was revised to June 2018.


Subsequently, a dispute over payments between the Chinese contractor and the Nepali sub-contractor (Northwest Infra Nepal) stalled works at the construction site for more than six months. As a result, the project deadline was extended many times after the initial extensions. The latest deadline given by the project financer Asian Development Bank (ADB) to the Chinese contractor is June 2019.


THE REASON
Tendering process    90 days
Documents evaluation    30 days
Letter of intent    7 days
Tender award    15 days
Preparation time    90 days
Factory equipments test    30 days
Installation works    90 days
Flight test    30 days
(Estimated Time for Second Package)

Published: 2018-09-02 08:16:05