Gautam Buddha International Airport to come into operation in 18 months

The runway of under construction Gautam Buddha International Airport. Photo Source: Rabindra Shahi/Setopati

Construction is underway at the two international airports including that in Pokhara and Bhairahawa.

Gautam Buddha International Airport, out of the two, will come into operation after 18 months. Construction work of the airport that failed to gain pace due to disputes and lack of necessary construction materials, has recently gained momentum.

“The airport can come into operation within 2019 if this pace continues,” project chief Om Sharma told Setopati.

Preparations are on to bring the airport into operation after construction of the runway, terminal, air traffic control (ATC), administrative building and installation of communication tools have gained pace.

Various types of layering will be done at the first stage before blacktopping the runway.

“We are working on subbase layer compression. We will then work on base course layer,” Sharma said, “It will take two months to complete the base course layer. After completing the base course layer, runway will be blacktopped.”

The administrative, security and electronic control buildings have been completed. Construction of ATC building has reached final stage. Similarly, the ground floor of terminal building has been completed whereas construction of two stories is underway and will be completed by April 15.

The process of purchasing prefabricate to be used above the terminal building has also been initiated.

“Blacktopping of the runway will be started after monsoon. The finishing of administration building and roofing of terminal building too will be done,” Sharma said, “Stocking of required materials for blacktopping has been started whereas the asphalt plant has also been installed. The physical infrastructures will be prepared within 2019.”

Sharma claimed that flight testing will be done as soon as construction of airport finishes in mid-2019.

Construction of the international airport was started from 2015 with its upgradation.  It was scheduled to be completed by December 2017. At present, only 36 percent of the construction works have been completed.

The deadline of construction was extended for the first time by six months following the disputes between local partners and Chinese contractors. With only two months remaining after the recent extension which will end by June 2018 , the project and civil aviation authority contractors have again agreed for extending the deadline.

Meanwhile, officials have said there is scope for hope as construction has gained its momentum even though the performance of contractors is not satisfactory.

Sharma said the contractor has been given continuity as revocation of contract will raise investment and will also take a comparatively longer time.

“Adequate discussions have been held on whether to cancel or give continuity to the contractor. But cancelling the agreement would take a longer time and also increase the investment,” he said, “We have reached a conclusion to give continuity to the current contractor.”

Construction of the airport is entrusted to North West Civil Aviation Group. It has applied for visa to bring as many as 250 Chinese workers to increase the pace of construction.

Sharma further said the probability of cancellation of agreement is always there. “We can also cancel the agreement if it does not complete the works in time. For now, the donor Asian Development Bank (ADB) has also approved the contractor,” he said.

The ADB had earlier pressed the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) stating that construction work was not satisfactory and demanded revocation of the contract. It also stopped the payment from December 2017.

An ADB team after monitoring the site last week found the work satisfactory and said that it would continue the association.

The Bhairahawa Airport, being constructed on joint investment of ADB and government at a total cost of Rs 6.66 billion will be of the same standard as the Tribhuvan International Airport.

It will have 3000-meter runway and will be able to cater to 400 passengers per hour. At least five aircraft can be parked in the airport that will have two-way approach.



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