Chinese firm bags airport contractCivil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) on Thursday awarded the contract to upgrade Bhairahawa’s Gautam Buddha airport to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group.
The upgraded regional international airport will come into operation by 2017-end. Caan Director General Ratish Chandra Lal Suman and General Manager of Northwest’s Overseas Department Zhou Zun signed the Rs 6.22 billion civil works deal.
The Chinese contractor emerged as the lowest bidder during a final review of financial documents by Asian Development Bank (ADB), the major financer of the project.
Caan has estimated the project cost at Rs 6.30 billion. The planned airport will have a 3,000-metre runway and a capacity to serve 760,000 passengers annually after the completion of the first phase of upgradation.
“The Chinese company will formally start work after resource allocation,’ said Suman, adding the airport will come into commercial operation by the end of 2017.
The scope of work involves the construction of a new runway, exit and parallel taxiways with flexible pavements, new international aircraft parking apron with rigid pavements, rehabilitation of the existing runway for conversion into parallel taxiway, drainage system parallel to the runway, taxiway and diversion of the Ghaghara Khola and airport boundary, among others.
China Harbour Engineering Company and a Nepali-Spanish joint venture Sanjose-Kalika were the second and third lowest bidders, quoting Rs 6.40 billion and Rs 6.68 billion respectively.
Likewise, the other short listed firms are China Overseas Engineering Group, China’s Sinohydro Corporation and Spain’s Isolux-Corsan which had quoted Rs 6.77 billion, Rs 7.20 billion and Rs 7.21 billion respectively. On February 26, Caan had received seven confirmed bids from among the 37 firms that obtained bid documents.
The airport in Bhairahawa which is being upgraded into a regional international airport is the gateway to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. Of the total project cost, ADB will provide $ 58.50 million ($ 42.75 in loans and $ 15.75 million in grants), the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) will give $ 15 million loan and Caan will bear the rest as counterpart funding.
In the second phase which will commence after 10 years, the airport is projected to handle up to 2 million passengers. After the airport is complete, it will be able to handle up to 6 million passengers annually. The airport will have six international parking bays.
The airport has been touted as one of the most viable projects due to its potential to draw a large number of Buddhist pilgrims to Lumbini. It will also serve as an alternative to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) which is under strain due to heavy traffic.