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Upgrading aviation infrastructure

WM Correspondent

The country’s only international airport—Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA)- is utterly mismanaged and overcrowded. It has already reached the saturation point in terms of handling the ever increasing flow of air passengers.

It is shameful to note that the TIA has been recently ranked as the third worst international airport in the world.

But the good is that the construction of Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) is going to take off after the prolonged delay.

The PRIA project had been idle since July, 2013 because of the problem of a shocking rise in its initially estimated construction cost.

The government had expected the project to cost around $ 166 million but the China CMAC, which was awarded the construction contract in May, 2013, quoted a price of $ 305 million. In fact, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority even suspected financial irregularities in the tender process of the project.

However, the deck has finally been cleared for executing the project with the Finance Ministry subscribing to the revised cost of $215.96 million.

As the project is going to be executed under the Engineering Procurement and Construction model, it is expected to be accomplished at the stipulated time with predetermined price.

The airport, which has been in the works for 39 years, will be built with loan assistance from China Exim Bank.

 As such, this venture is also going to be a landmark economic and technical cooperation between Nepal and China. 

Apart from bolstering tourism business of Pokhara in particular, the airport can well give a whole impetus to the growth of the country's travel trade industry as a whole.

With the completion of the PRIA, the number of tourists visiting the country could reach the three million mark.

Nepal, of course, relies heavily on air services to bring in international visitors, with 75 percent of tourists coming in by air.

 Unfortunately, there has not been any notable improvement in the air service infrastructure in sync with the rise in the number of airline companies and passengers.

Since the 90s, the number of airline companies operating regular flights has crossed 18. Similarly, the total number of air passengers now stands at more than 4.80 million a year  

The abysmal state of the aviation infrastructure is hamstringing the country from fully exploiting its massive tourism potentials.

As such, experts are also pointing out the need to expedite the upgrade of Gautam Buddha Airport into regional airport and the construction of the second international airport in Dumarwana, Bara.

 "Nepal can well become an aviation hub of South Asia if the Bara International Airport is constructed as a few international airline companies have already proposed to make Nepal a transit," they view.       


Wednesday, Oct 29, 2014 10:00 pm


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