Much-postponed air route meeting delayed again

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Apr 1, 2017-

The much-postponed safety assessment meeting on the Kathmandu-Mahendranagar-Delhi (L626) air route scheduled for April 6 in New Delhi is likely to be cancelled once again due to a travel ban.

The Election Commission on Thursday turned down a request by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) to send an official to the safety assessment meeting as per the invitation of the Airports Authority of India as the election code of conduct bars government employees from going on a foreign trip.

During the meeting in Delhi last December, India had agreed to allow two-way traffic movement on the L626 route after conducting a safety assessment. After a seven-year endeavour, the one-way L626 airspace was opened on November 19, 2009. 

The major exit point for west-bound international carriers from Nepal links New Delhi with Kathmandu through the flight path passing over Chitwan, Palpa, Surkhet and Mahendranagar.  

Risk assessments are done normally when new routes are added to determine whether it is safe to fly to or over. If there is a risk, it can be mitigated to an acceptable level.

Another Nepal-India joint technical committee meeting on cross-border air routes was proposed to be held in Kolkata at the end of the Delhi conference. 

“Both the meetings are in limbo now,” said a senior Caan official. “However, we are making efforts to convince the Election Commission about the gravity of the issue.” “The first meeting will not last more than 3 hours,” he said. 

India had proposed an early-April date for the meeting after it could not be held in the first week of February as scheduled previously. The planned conference was called off amid controversy over India’s proposal to allow overnight stay for air marshals, or security officers on board commercial aircraft.

According to Caan officials, delays in the safety assessment meeting would further complicate the Nepal-India joint technical committee meeting with regard to three new cross-border air entry points in Janakpur, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj airspaces that Nepal had proposed with the view of connecting upcoming international airports in Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh.

Among the three proposed routes, the Nepalgunj airspace best suits Tribhuvan International Airport and the international airports being built in Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh.

Despite the Indian side’s reservations over the airspace due to the presence of their defence base, they have hinted at opening some sections of the airspace over Nepalgunj. 

Nepal has been pushing the agenda of expanding new cross-border airspaces for the past nine years. The agenda was endorsed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August 2014.

The prime ministers of the two countries had directed the authorities concerned to meet within six months to resolve the issue.

A joint communiqué issued by the two sides at the end of the visit said, “The cross-border direct routes 

will facilitate flights between regional airports in Pokhara and Bhairahawa, and this will save time and money for air travellers and also improve air connectivity between India and Nepal.”

Published: 01-04-2017 08:41

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