It has been decided that the Pokhara Regional International Airport under construction will not be completed on time due to coronavirus infection. The deadline for completion of the airport was July 10, 2021. The airport project has stated that the work will not be completed with only one month left.
Chief of the project, Vinesh Munkarmi, said that the time allotted for the airport’s construction would be insufficient as there was only one month left. Therefore, the deadline has to be extended, he said. “There is only one month left till the appointed time. Certainly, work will not be completed during this period. However, the contractor company has said that the work will be completed by December 2021, ‘said Munkarmi.’ The work has been delayed due to Corona. It will undoubtedly be pushed back for at least six months.
He said that it is inevitable that commercial flights will start from this airport in Pokhara in 2022 if the situation is not worse than it is now.
“Even though the construction of the airport has been completed, it will take a few months to come into operation. Therefore, we have set a target to start commercial flights in 2022, ‘said Munkarmi. According to Munkarmi, the physical construction work of the airport is almost complete. Equipment connection is in progress. However, he said that it would take some time as all the equipment could not come. The equipment required for the airport should come from the United States, Australia, China, and other countries. He said that it was challenging to complete the work on time as some skilled technicians were also foreigners, and they couldn’t come immediately.
KP Sharma Oli had laid the project’s foundation stone on April 13, 2016, when he was the Prime Minister for the last time. The infrastructure of the airport was finally started a year and a half after the foundation stone was laid. So far, 2500 meters long, 45 meters wide, and 34 centimeters thick runway has been completed. Similarly, a terminal building with a capacity of 600 passengers per hour has been constructed. The apron has also been prepared. The parking lot can accommodate 11 aircraft.
Aircraft can only land at this one-way approach airport from the east. The airport is being built to take off from the east. An agreement was reached between China CAMC Engineering and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) to build the airport. The construction of the airport is estimated to cost around Rs 22 billion. The Ministry of Finance has agreed to take this amount as a concessional loan from the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM).
The agreement between the authority and CAMC stipulates that the airport will be built on the EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) model and the 4D model on the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) criteria. Four decades ago, 3,106 ropanis of land in Pokhara-14, 15, and 18 wards was acquired to build an airport. When that was not enough, an additional 521 ropanis of land was acquired. When that was not enough, the airport’s construction was started by acquiring an additional 60 ropanis of land to build a 10 km road around the airport.
Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer (ORAT)
According to the project chief, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has also set up an ‘Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer’ (ORAT). A team has been formed under the leadership of Bikram Gautam, the chief of the airport currently operating in Pokhara. This team has all the skilled technicians and administrative people needed to operate the airport. There are nine in the group.
According to Gautam, this is the second airport in Nepal to be operated by our own ORAT team. Earlier, Bhairahawa airport had its ORAT team. For the second time in Nepal, the Indigenous ORAT team has started this work for the Pokhara Regional International Airport. ORAT, which has a couple of very skilled technicians, will have to bear a heavy financial burden when going abroad. However, he said that now the indigenous team has started working.
“This team had thoroughly studied all the work done before the airport came into operation. While we work intensively to avoid any inconvenience during the first flight, ‘Gautam said,’ We will ensure no problems during the flight. We are working to make the flight and landing uninterrupted. ‘ He said that the Oyat team would be active in resolving the issue not only during the flight but also without any inconvenience to the passengers.
According to him, while constructing the airport, it should be ensured that all the infrastructures are following the prescribed criteria or not. Any necessary suggestions for the airport can also be given. “It’s a very high-tech job. It would have been costly to send foreign technicians to do this work. But, it was easy because of our team, ‘he said,’ this team works so that there should be no obstruction and confusion when the airport is brought into operation on the first day. It has very experienced technicians who work on it so that there are no problems. ‘ Gautam said that this team working for Pokhara would work for everything from marketing to air routes.