Nijgadh Airport faces uncertainty due to TIA expansion

Nijgadh airport faces uncertainty due to TIA expansion
16 March 2015 | Karobar

KATHMANDU, MAR 15: Investment for the second international airport to be constructed at Nijgadh has been affected by the ongoing expansion at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) that would cost almost Rs 60 billion. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation says foreigners are hesitating to invest on the Nijgadh International Airport due to that. Ministry officials claim that foreign investment for Nijgadh International Airport will not come in BOOT model if the TIA is not limited as a regional international airport. The current expansion of the TIA has raised doubts about whether two big international airports can be operated in the country simultaneously. Ministry officials are also divided on the issue. Ministry Spokesperson Mohan Sapkota concedes that there is lack of unanimity on that but opines that the second international airport in Njgadh must be constructed. “There are arguments that limiting the TIA to a domestic or regional international airport after construction of the international airport in Nijgadh will create problems in the capital. There are also doubts that the country cannot sustain two big modern international airports on the other hand,” he added.

Foreigners will seek return in accordance to investment and the international airport in Nijgadh will struggle to even recover operating cost if it does not get business. There can also be low pressure on the airport in Nijgadh as regional international airports will also be constructed in Pokhara and Bhairahawa. Expansion of the TIA, that started in 2010, will continue till 2018, as per the master plan for TIA expansion. The first stage of the work has already been started. The government aims to cater to 920 million passengers a year by upgrading the TIA that currently caters to 4.80 million passengers. The voice for construction of the international airport at Nijgadh has become strong after accident of the Turkish Airlines plane at the TIA obstructed the only international airport in the country for four days. But there is no unanimity among the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Finance Ministry, the National Planning Commission (NPC), and the Investment Board about the modality for the project. The Finance Ministry says it should be constructed in BOOT model at any cost while the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation says the government must acquire land and construct the runway itself in the first stage. Discussions on these issues are held in the majority of joint meetings.

A few government officials are for only upgrading the TIA to serve as a regional international airport while a few are for stopping the ongoing upgradation of TIA and put full attention on Nijgadh. Government bodies are wary as the report submitted by the South Korean company LMW after feasibility study four years ago had recommended that the TIA should be converted into a domestic airport. The majority of the government officials say the TIA should not be converted into a domestic airport as it is in the capital city. The government has started construction of the Gautam Buddha Regional International Airport in Bhairahawa with investment of Rs 7 billion. Construction of an airport of similar nature will also start in Pokhara from this year by spending Rs 21 billion. Both the airports are scheduled to be completed by 2018. The government officials are also divided into two groups about the modality for Nijgadh as both these regional international airports and upgradation of the TIA will be completed in 2018.