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Army to do preparatory work on second int’l airport project

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jan 20, 2017-The government has decided to assign the Nepal Army to do the preparatory work on the Nijgadh International Airport project following widespread criticism over delays in starting construction, said Suresh Acharya, joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

The Nepal Army will build an access road to the runway and perimeter road and clear trees at the construction site as part of the preparatory work.

“However, the rest of the construction work will be carried out by the government itself,” Acharya told the parliamentary Development Committee on Thursday.

The airport to be built at Dumarwana in Bara district will be spread over 80 square kilometers, 90 percent of which is covered by forest.  

Acharya said the government had started preparing an environmental impact assessment. “After the assessment is okayed, we can proceed with clearing the forest,” he said. “We have also appointed a consultant to conduct a social impact assessment.” 

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jiwan Bahadur Shahi said they had asked the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation for permission to cut down the trees at the site. 

The amount of compensation to be paid to the owners of the 110 bighas of land to be acquired for the airport project has been fixed, Shahi said. 

“However, complications have arisen as 1,600 households do not hold title deeds, and they have been putting pressure on the government to provide replacement land,” said Shahi.

Speaking at the House panel meeting, lawmakers criticised the government for the slow progress on the international airport project. “Although the government does not have to spend a lot of money by way of compensation for land acquisition, the slow progress has raised questions if the government has been deliberately holding back,” said Member of Parliament Purushottam Poudel. 

Poudel also criticised the government for falling behind with the budget expenditure. “Last year, the government spent barely 1 percent of the allocated budget,” he said.  

The government has allocated Rs2.5 billion for the project for this fiscal year. Poudel asked the government to create a timetable for implementing the project and stick to the deadline. 

Meanwhile, government officials have blamed the delay on the government’s decision to do another detailed feasibility study. Earlier, the government had appointed Landmark Worldwide Company (LMW) of Korea to conduct a detailed feasibility study. 

As per the deal, the Korean company would not charge the government for the study if it was given the contract to build the airport. But since the government has proposed to implement the project on its own, it has decided to reimburse LMW for its expenses. 

The Korean company had conducted the study at a cost of $3.55 million and submitted the report to the government in April 2012. 

Joint Secretary Acharya said the government would carry out a detailed project report after things were settled with the Korean company. “We are working to appoint an auditor to finalise the reimbursement amount,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the parliamentary committee on Thursday directed the government to finalise the contract with LMW as soon as possible. Similarly, the panel asked the government to confirm the project modality to begin construction. 

CAMC told to open escrow account

The government has requested the Chi-nese contractor for Pokhara International Airport to es- tablish an escrow account in two weeks. Under this arrangement, money will be held by a third party on behalf of the transacting parties. The government has awarded China CAMC Engineering Co the contract for the international airport in one of the main tourist destinations in the country. Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jiwan Bahadur Shahi said opening an escrow account would help to receive the loan amount in an easy manner.

Published: 20-01-2017 09:37

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