Gautam Buddha Airport: Korean firm warns Chinese contractor

- Madhav Dhungana, BHAIRAHAWA

Apr 9, 2017-

The South Korean design and supervision consultant for Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa has called on the Chinese contactor to immediately settle the dispute with the subcontractor and expedite construction works at the site.

A warning letter in this regard was issued by Yoossin Engineering Corporation on Friday. 

“This is the fifth warning issued to the Chinese contractor,” Om Sharma, head of the project, said. “The company has been warned as it failed to resume construction works as agreed during a recent meeting of concerned stakeholders.” According to Sharma, the project consultant holds the right to warn the contractor, and the project office will intervene only if necessary. Construction work of the national pride project has failed to gather pace, as a payment dispute between Chinese contractor, Northwest Civil Aviation Construction Group, and the local sub-contractor, Northwest Infra Nepal, is yet to be settled. 

The government awarded the contract to upgrade Gautam Buddha airport into an international airport to the Chinese company in October 2014. But trouble began after the Chinese company illegally appointed a subcontractor without informing the project execution agency.

The subcontractors were appointed to supply construction materials, labourers, fuel and heavy duty vehicles. The Chinese contractor reportedly gave money to the subcontractor to execute the tasks, but subcontractors have claimed they have not received full payment. As the rift between the contractor and subcontractor widened, payments to workers and suppliers could not be released. This led to complete halt of construction works at the project site in mid-March.

A multi-stakeholder meeting, comprising Chinese and local contractors, held on March 21 then reached an understanding to conduct an assessment of works completed so far and due payments that needed to be settled by respective parties.  

Later, the Chinese contractor had said that it was preparing to replace the subcontractor with five other local contractors. And on April 1, the Chinese firm said it had resumed the suspended works at the site on its own. While the local contractor has allowed the Chinese company to resume works, the Chinese contractor has lately been dragging its feet to expedite construction citing security reasons, Sharma said. 

“It is up to the company to settle the payment issue,” Sharma said. “It cannot make excuses and delay project development.” 

The airport was originally slated to be ready in December 2017. However, shortages of fuel and building materials due to the months-long Tarai banda in 2015 delayed works by six months and its operation deadline was extended to June 2018. The latest problems mean that the project completion deadline will likely be pushed back to 2019.

The national pride project has been envisaged to serve the fast-rising business and industrial hub of Bhairahawa and facilitate international pilgrimage tourism to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. 

Published: 09-04-2017 08:15

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