Bhairahawa airport to conduct test flights by March-endWorkers are putting the finishing touches to the interiors and installing and testing various equipment.
Nepal’s second international airport coming up in Bhairahawa will be ready to conduct test flights by March-end, but it is not known when the facility will begin commercial operation, the Tourism Ministry said on Thursday.
Speaking at the annual Tripartite Portfolio Review meeting of the Asian Development Bank, Tourism Secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari said that the construction of the airport would be completed by December-end and test flights would begin three months later.
“We are in the process of appointing an airport operator. There are a number of foreign companies willing to manage the facility,” he said. He urged the Asian Development Bank, the financer of the project, to assist the ministry to prepare a modality for the airport's operation.
Shreekrishna Nepal, joint secretary and chief of the International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division of the Ministry of Finance, asked why the Tourism Ministry had not set a realistic date for the airport's launch as there was confusion over its completion and operation dates.
“There has been a series of announcements and postponements of launch dates which has created confusion,” he told the review meeting. Government officials said timely inauguration of the airport would give a boost to the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign when the country expects to host 2 million tourists.
Naresh Pradhan, project officer (transport) at the Asian Development Bank, said 77 percent of the physical works at the airport had been completed.
He said that the runway, taxiway, terminal building and air traffic control tower were ready. Workers are putting the finishing touches to the interiors and installing and testing various equipment. “As we have only three months, the furnishing work has to be expedited.”
The Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, which has received a $4.83 million contract to install communications, navigation and surveillance and air traffic management systems, has ordered the equipment from the manufacturer and the stuff will arrive soon, Pradhan said. It will take at least 90 days to set up the equipment.
Mukhtor Khamudkhanov, country director for the Asian Development Bank in Nepal, said the overall operations in Nepal had improved as of July 31, 2019 compared with the same period last year due to continued contribution to the country’s earthquake reconstruction efforts and a number of ongoing energy projects.
"While Nepal’s portfolio performance has improved, challenges remain and further improvement is crucial to tap into the Asian Development Bank’s lending resources,” Khamudkhanov said.
The multilateral agency’s lending to Nepal has increased in recent years, reaching the highest commitment level in 2018 at $592 million. Of the net available funding amount of $2.7 billion spread over 31 investment projects, 68 percent had been contracted out and 42 percent had been disbursed as of July-end.
The bank's support to Nepal’s reconstruction efforts after the 2015 earthquake totals $389 million. The reconstruction of 154 schools under the bank-supported Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project is nearing completion. As of August, the total disbursement for the project for this year had reached $38.75 million and is expected to meet the 2019 target of $59.53 million by the end of the year.
The bank is one of the leading development partners in Nepal in the energy sector, with $554 million in commitments. Of the $101.2 million contract award target set for 2019, $111.2 million has already been awarded, exceeding the annual target. This was mainly contributed by the Power Transmission and Distribution Efficiency Enhancement Project, with contracts worth $74 million awarded.