EIA report to be sent to green ministryThe Tourism Ministry is preparing to send the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the proposed international airport project in Bara, Nijgadh to the Ministry of Environment for its approval.
The Tourism Ministry is preparing to send the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the proposed international airport project in Bara, Nijgadh to the Ministry of Environment for its approval.
The planned construction site lies amid dense forest and will be spread over 8,000 hectares. Project officials said that work to clear the forest would begin after the EIA is okayed.
As per the report, more than 2.4 million small and large trees will have to be cut down to build the much talked about modern international airport. Of the total trees sampled, nearly 600,000 big trees have to be cut down.
Nijgadh airport, located 175 kilometres south of Kathmandu, is expected to be the biggest airport in South Asia in terms of area. However, in the first phase, the airport will have only one runway and be spread over 1,000 to 2,000 hectares. The infrastructure will be expanded gradually based on need, the report said.
“We will begin to clear the forest as per the directive of the Environment Ministry. The EIA draft will not need to be approved by the Cabinet,” said Hari Adhikari, chief of the project. “However, if legal restrictions emerge, it will have to be sent to the Cabinet for its go-ahead.”
He added that it would take at least 42 days for the Environment Ministry to complete the process. As per the EIA draft, trees will have to be cut down in phases depending on how much area is needed. “We have a binding rule that the project’s executing agency should plant 25 saplings for every tree that is cut down,” he said.
The report has also offered an alternative plan under which the project can be developed with minimum damage to the environment. As there are fewer trees on the southern side of the project site, shifting the airport to the south means many trees can be saved, said Adhikari.
The market value of the lumber stands at over Rs65 billion, according to sources privy to the matter. The money from the sale of trees will pay for half of the construction cost, officials said.
Adhikari said that after the EIA, the project would prepare the project’s design and cost estimates. “Following the design and cost estimates, global bids will be issued to construct the airport.”
Adhikari said that they would also begin the process of preparing a detailed project report (DPR) which will take at least 21 months to complete. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan), the project executing body, has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nepal Army to clear the forest.
Nearly 90 percent of the project area is covered by Shorea robusta trees, also known as Sal or Sakhua. On February 10, the Forest Ministry allowed the Tourism Ministry to conduct an EIA. It has also asked the Tourism Ministry to prepare an economic valuation of the impact of the airport construction project on biodiversity.
Likewise, the Forest Ministry has asked for an action plan on the types of saplings that will be planted, the location where they will be planted, the amount of time that will be required, and the body that will be responsible for planting them.
Caan has estimated that the proposed second international airport in Nijgadh can be constructed at a cost of Rs121 billion, excluding the proposed airport city. Caan said the airport would be able to handle 20 million passengers annually in the first phase.