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Gautam Buddha Int’l Airport project makes visible progress, ADB likely to rejoin

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jul 22, 2018-The much-delayed upgradation of Gautam Buddha Airport in Bhairahawa has achieved 50 percent of physical progress in June and the international airport is on track to open by July 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) said.   

The 50 percent physical progress that the project has achieved is out of 70 percent of the overall civil works.

The remaining 30 percent or the second package involves installation of Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (ANS) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems.

“The project has achieved better-than-expected result in June,” said Sanjiv Gautam, director general of Caan.

With the June’s progress report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB)—financer of the project that has remained out of the project since December last year—is expected to rejoin the project soon, Gautam said. “The ADB has been considering continuing support for the project and we are in regular discussion with them.”

The ADB had informed the government that it would not be able to finance the project further after its initial deadline ended in December 2017 in view of its slow progress.

According to Gautam, the final base laying works of 3,000-metre-long and 45-metre-wide runway will be completed by July-end. “And it will be blacktopped by September.”

Caan awarded the Rs6.22-billion Gautam Buddha Airport upgradation contract to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013.

The airport was initially slated to be ready in December 2017.

Of the total project cost, the ADB has provided $58.50 million ($42.75 in loans and $15.75 million in grants), the Opec Fund for International Development (OFID) has provided a $15 million loan and Caan will bear the rest of the cost as counterpart funding.

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. The last deadline given by the project financer ADB to the Chinese contractor is June 2019.

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

After the first phase of upgradation, the airport’s handling capacity will be increased to 760,000 passengers annually.

Lumbini is 22km from Gautam Buddha International Airport at Bhairahawa. The airport will also become Nepal’s second international airport and also serve as an alternate international air transport point in the event of poor weather conditions or in case natural calamity shuts down the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the only international airport in the country.

Published: 22-07-2018 11:10

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