Recently the Government of Nepal made an announcement to construct helipad in each of the VDCs and municipalities of the country while the airports already constructed and still operable in various parts of the country have shut down as the consequence of negligence of the government management. Those airports have no sign of resuming their operation.
Even the protection of runway has not been done and the airports have been completely put away from the protection. The runways and airports’ premises are the playground and grazing spot of cattle as the result of extreme negligence from the government side to protect those shut airports that were once constructed with the millions of investment.
Among the 7 airports of seven districts including Pokhara only 2 of them are in operation according to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). The airports which have been black topped and are capable of operating whole year round have not been utilized.
Pokhara Airport, Jomsom and Humde Airport have black topped runways, Palungtar of Gorkha, Chitleswara of Lamjung, Balewa of Banglung and Dhorpatan are the airstrips with only graveled runways. Among these seven only Pokhara and Jomsom airoprts are in operation. The other 4 airports except Chitleswara were in operation once upon a time but now stay shut. The construction of Chitleswara airport has not been completed even though the construction started long ago.
These airports started to fall back in operation after the vehicles operated on the roads connecting these places. The roadways are the main reason to put airports behind, according to Chief of Pokhara Airport Dipak Baral.
Few years back, Humde Airport of Manang got black topped making it operable all year round. Also the runway was extended from 600 meters to 900 meters and parking ramps were improved taking a long three years of construction time. But the airport which was servicing before extension had to shut down as soon as the extension completed. Around 90 million was the cost of improvement of the airport but not a single flight has taken off or landed in the airport since it got black topped. This airport at an elevation of 11,145 feet used to be in operation only on dray seasons before the improvement of airport. Tourism business person of Manang Binod Gurung told despite of his appeal in civil aviation and the ministry for scheduling flights the airport still stays in the shadow. The government that cannot operate the airports that are already ready to serve now wants to build helipads in every single VDC’s which is a matter of humor he added.
The Palungtar airstrip In Gorkha also stays in the shadow since 4 decades. This airstrip has a remarkable history of serving the regular scheduled flights from 2017 to 2036 BS. The development of roadway connecting Dumre – Beshisahar track with Prithvi highway caused decrement in the air travellers leading the airport to be shut completely. Therefore 1,700 meters long runway now is a playground for local people. The runway also served the people to transport the relief supplies when the village suffered a massive food scarcity in 2017 BS.
Similarly, Baglung has two airstrips but both are not in operation. The airstrip of Balewa which lies near to headquarter of the district is shut since 25 years. The airstrip in Dhorpatan is only used by the hunters to land and take off the helicopters. A huge amount of investment therefore has gone a waste and a lot of amount of money allocated in the name of renovation of the airport have not been properly utilized.
Balewa airport that was established in 2018 BS was in continuous operation till 2048 BS when Pokhara – Baglung highway was built. Few years back the contemporary Tourism Minister Lokendra Bista landed an airplane as a test flight in the airport. The Minister speeded hope for the soonest resuming of the airport which only seems to be limited in talk according to the locals. The local people are demanding for resuming operation of both the airports.
The chief of Chamber of Commerce of Baglung, Jayaram Bhari told that the government is not showing any interest in resuming operation of Dorphatan Airport. Only helicopters land there occasionally and no planes have been seen since ages. The Tourism ministers announce the operation of the airport to be resumed soon but no one has been able to do it in real. The cost allocated for the renovation of those airports is a meaning less expenditure and the government should now focus on operating such airports and not on constructing helipads in every VDC he added.