PM urges momentum on SIA, Fast Track Road

PM Urges Momentum on SIA, Fast Track Road

17 March 2015 | The Himalayan Times 

KATHMANDU, MAR 16: Prime Minister Sushil Koirala today urged the concerned government authorities to do the needful to expedite construction of Second International Airport (SIA) and Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track road.  The instruction of the prime minister has come at a time when the delay in construction of said projects has drawn immense concerns despite their huge importance. Speaking at a meeting of the Development Committee of the Legislature-Parliament today, Koirala said that the projects had failed to make progress even as they had been listed as national pride projects. The recent case of Turkish Airlines aircraft skidding off the runway, which halted movement of all international flights for almost four days in the country’s only international airport, has put pressure on the government to construct an alternative international airport at the earliest.The government has been planning to build both the projects under build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) model by involving international developers. 
“There are various models in which the projects can be undertaken,” he said, adding government could even build them with its own resources, if necessary.Amid SIA and Fast Track road projects not moving effectively, the committee today had invited the prime minister, ministers of concerned ministries and experts to discuss about the hurdles facing the projects and way forward.Koirala said that the nation has failed to achieve desirable development owing to lack of proper system of governance, which has put the country in transition phase for a long time and made bureaucracy lethargic. Fast Track road has remained in the talk for development since last 24 years. Similarly, SIA was initially envisioned as an alternative to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) 17 years ago.Senior leader of UML and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said that the projects had been ‘victims’ of lack of seriousness from the government. “As there is no sincerity, projects face problems and take long time to be completed,” said Nepal. 
Citing slow progress in projects like Melamchi Drinking Water Project being undertaken by the government, Sher Bahadur Deuba, former prime minister and senior leader of Nepali Congress, opined that the government should hand over the responsibility to develop the projects to a reliable company, if it was unable to give it due priority. Deuba said so while experts have been urging the government to build both SIA and Fast Track road with its own investment. Former finance secretary Rameshwor Koirala and other experts — Surya Acharya and Birendra Deuja — said that the government should develop the projects as resource was no longer a major issue.  “Implementation of this type of project, can be risky, but ultimately we all stand to benefit from it,” said Acharya.SIA is estimated to cost Rs 60 to 65 billion and Fast Track road requires investment of around Rs 100 billion based on a feasibility study conducted by the Asian Development Bank in 2008. To be able to operate SIA as alternative international airport, the government will have to complete the Fast Track road six months before completion of SIA. Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat and Physical Infrastructure Minister Bimalendra Nidhi underlined the need of first preparing the detailed project report (DPR) of Fast Track road by the lowest bidder of the project.A consortium of Indian companies — Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Transportation Networks, IL&FS Engineering and Construction, and Suryavir Infrastructure Construction — is the lowest bidder for the Fast Track road. However, the minimum revenue guarantee (MRG) of Rs 317 billion it sought for the project was way higher than the expected cost. “If the DPR also shows that the project cost is high, we are also open to build it with our own resources,” said Mahat. He added that among others, there were also options of increasing equity share in the project from 30 to 49 per cent.