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At PM’s behest, aviation academy faces turbulence

- SANGAM PRASAIN

Nov 4, 2018-

Nepal’s only civil aviation academy in Sano Thimi, Bhaktapur, which houses nearly a dozen important infrastructures for training future aviation workforce, appears almost certain to be closed after the government’s latest decision to build an international exhibition hall there.

The Cabinet meeting on October 14 had decided to transfer ownership of 189 ropanis of land belonging to CAAN to the Ministry of Urban Develo- pment for the construction of the exhibition hall. The decision has worried many aviation professionals including the civil aviation regulator—the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) because it can put the country’s aviation safety and security into doldrums.

Even if the academy and other training centres are shifted to another location, it would take years and require heavy investment. The decision has come at the time when CAAN has been recently approved as a full member of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) “Trainair member”, which has a goal of improving the safety and efficiency of air transport through the establishment, maintenance and monitoring of high standards of training and competency of aviation personnel.

WHAT WAS THE DECISION?

Initially, the CAAN made a presentation to the government, refusing to provide its land for the exhibition hall as it prepared a master plan under which it would construct infrastructure to produce qualified national aviation manpower. “However, we [CAAN] were informed that it was an ‘order’ from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to provide the land,” said a CAAN official, who refused to be named. An order from the Prime Minister forced CAAN to agree on providing 98 ropanis of land. Documents obtained by the Post shows that the Ministry of Urban Development on October 4 had tabled a proposal seeking Cabinet’s approval to acquire 98 ropanis of land belonging to CAAN. The proposal reads that a 5,000-seat capacity permanent exhibition hall would be built on the land within this fiscal year.

As per the proposal, the Ministry had studied three alternatives—141 ropanis of land that was acquired to build residence for parliamentarians in Bhainsepati, 111 ropanis of land belonging to Nepal Trust in Sallaghari, Bhaktapur, and 189 ropanis of land belonging to CAAN at Sano Thimi Bhaktapur—to build the infrastructure.

Among the three alternatives, CAAN’s land was deemed suitable for the project and proposed 98 ropanis of land to be transferred to the Ministry, the proposal reads. Accordingly, the proposal was tabled at the Cabinet. But, the Cabinet’s decision came as a surprise.

On October 14, the Cabinet’s decision was amended. A separate letter signed by Chief Secretary Lok Darshan Regmi asked the Ministry of Urban Develo-pment to implement all of the Cabinet’s decision by removing the “98 ropanis”. “It’s a serious matter. It took decades to establish the infrastructure and the government wants to destroy it in one stroke,” said CAAN source. “This kind of inconsistent and impractical decision can be a big blow to the country’s

aviation industry whose safety and poor manpower has been questioned by global aviation watchdogs.”

In 1997, the Japanese government had constructed a radar simulator at the site. After the earthquake of 2015, CAAN had shifted its civil aviation academy from Sinamangal to Sano Thimi. The training centre has been preparing specialised air traffic controllers, radar controllers, rescue and fire-fighting officials and flight dispatcher, among others. CAAN has also been constructing an aviation technical services (ATS) building with an investment of Rs60 million at the site currently.

CAAN Director General Sanjiv Gautam said they have not received the letter from the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers regarding the decision to transfer all the land in Bhaktapur to the Ministry of Urban Development. He, however, said that they had agreed to allocate 98 ropanis for the building of the international exhibition hall.

On Saturday, speaking at a programme in Bhaktapur, former Minister of Industry and Nepal Communist Party lawmaker Mahesh Basnet said that the government has allocated 189 ropanis of land at Sano Thimi for the construction of a world-class exhibition hall. He said that the construction of the project would usher in a new stage of development at Bhaktapur.

“The project is expected to begin soon and will be a centre of attraction in Bhaktapur,” he said. Last July, the government had also decided to construct a temporary structure on the land and rent it out for the Zee Cine Awards. However, the plan fell apart.

Published: 04-11-2018 07:39

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