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Monday, January 19, 2009

Need of 2nd International Airport: A Question

Nepal has established itself as one of the top tourist’s destination and from past 10 years there has been a tremendous increase in number of arrivals by airways than any other means. In-fact the sudden fluctuation in number of arrivals by airways has increased so much that numerous international airline companies have established their services focusing the number of arrivals. On one hand it is attracting foreign investment whereas on other hand it is creating a crowd and congestion in the airport making it hard for the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to manage the rush due to lack of infrastructure and facilities.

Similarly, the proposed plan of constructing a second international airport at Nijjghad in budget 2064/65 has certainly raised question in the civil aviation industry over its implementation and initiation.

According to senior official at Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation (MCTCA), “Only Technical Preliminary Studies have been done, the concept had originated long back and few locations like Chitwan, Birgunj, Nepalgunj, Dang, Nijjgadh were tested for Pre feasibility, where Nijjgadh was technically found to be best.”

He also informed that there is a need of series of technical studies to be conducted with experts, which needs to be address with high priority. If we are planning to make a second international airport then the plans and policies should be devised according to future prospect considered the current flow. “Though the political leaders are manipulating the issue in their desired way, they should not proceed with hasty decision as it strongly focuses on the future of Nepal‘s Civil Aviation,” added the official.

Regarding the investment need for the airport, he stated that the government cannot sanction such huge amount in its budget. Either it has to adopt the Build On Operate and Transfer (BOOT) scheme with addressing good rules and polices or attracts foreign investment for which they have to devise systematic planning focusing on commercial viability.

He further suggested, a separate board should be devised which would work for the overall planning of the different technical studies. Then, MCTCA with all its technical team should work together under the hub. Till now looking at the progress, the work is going on in a procedural way but if government changes then program sustainability is questionable?

So high priority should be given to form a well-organized and systematic body, which would handle the over-all process, added the official.

Suman K. Shrestha, Director of Civil Engineering Department of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said, “The second international airport is the current need of Nepal’s civil aviation as the TIA is not able to address the need of current inflow of aircrafts and airlines. Presently, TIA is only practicing visual landing process, which is not applicable in bad weather and the possibility of accident rises in such condition. Likewise, the current flow of new and big aircraft has totally congested the TIA creating and highlighting the need and scope of a second international airport.”

Briefing more about the airport Shrestha stated, the airport would require around 400Bighas of land and should have two runways- landing and take off separately. It would be equipped with high and strong security measures and basic infrastructure to land any new aircrafts like Airbuses 380 and Boeing 747 and 777. Moreover the new airport would ease TIA from its congestion.

He also informed that and there are a series of technical test to be conducted. Most probably this year- site study, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) test and land capturing process will start. The next important thing for government is to have teamwork in-between the different Ministry’s like: Land and Reform, Finance, Law and Justice and Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation in an effective way where the progress can be attain.

Perhaps it is a big project so foreign investment or foreign donors are the prerequisite; we cannot think anything without them. I believe the totally future of the project depends upon involvement of donor agencies and Nepal Government cannot solely proceed with that added Shrestha.

Maheswar Bhakta Shrestha, Civil Aviation and Airlines expert said, “Currently after 40 years of establishment, TIA is still in the process of completion and is not able to provide better services and facilities. From time to time tourists have complained regarding the different facilities provided in TIA. I don’t think there is a need of a second international airport as when we are struggling with one, how can we handle the other?"

“However, people protesting against construction of International Airport in Nijjgad have been another aspect of hindrance to over come,” highlighted Shrestha.

“Regarding the second international airport, first the commercial viability needs to be evaluated as in today’s context when we are not able to optimize the maximum use of TIA then there is no question of a new international airport. Apart from that Biratnagar Airport had started international flight to India but later it was closed. So first commercial viability should be the priority and then other,” added Shrestha.

He further said, “The BOOT is solely a commercial concept, which does not seem to address the commercial viability. A big investment goes in and today when TIA is still in the process of developing, then the question of second international airport seems like eccentric. It is just a regional and tourism oriented decision to target Lumbini, more than that its commerciality viability and sustainability is highly questionable.

Bikash Rana, President of Nepal Airlines Operators Association (NAOA) said, “The concept of Second International Airport in Nijjghad is appreciable as currently we have only one International Airport and in situation of landing inability and parking, most of the aircraft are landed in Dehil or other airports outside the country which is very costly. So the need of an alternative airport certainly creates the scope for development in Civil Aviation of Nepal.”

Perhaps from the country point of view, we need the new airport as it will bring new business and tourism will flourish in the region. If new destinations are developed then business will increase and sidewise would development that particular area, added Rana

On the contrary Rana stated, the construction of second international airport is the need looking at the congestion at TIA but if we look at it from commercial viability and investment then, in current scenario when we are not able to use the TIA at optimum level then the decision should really be thought off.

In today’s context when Nepal has outstretched to world trade organization, a lot of business avenues and opportunities are open for foreign investment, in such scenario the concept of Second International Airport certainly gives hope of development highlighting the importance of airways in Nepal.

Though all people have supported the concept of Second International Airport for development but its commercial viability is highly questionable referring the present context of TIA to address the needs of the country’s Civil Aviation state.

By Shreedeep Rayamajhi


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