Fresh financing arrangement to be made for airport improvement projectThe upgradation of Tribhuvan International Airport has been moving in fits and starts since 2012.
The Asian Development Bank closed its loan and grant account for the Tribhuvan International Airport improvement project to start a fresh financing arrangement as its 10-year term expired without any visible achievement.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal is currently funding the airport improvement project. Its scope includes the extension of the northern part of the parallel taxiway to reduce the usage of the runway for taxing purposes, expansion of the apron to accommodate more aircraft, extension of the runway by 300 metres at its southern end, and construction of a new terminal building.
The $92-million project was approved in November 2009, and work started in 2012 with the completion deadline set for 2015. The Asian Development Bank provided $80 million ($70 million in loans and $10 million in grants) and the government contributed $12 million for the project.
The government requested the Asian Development Bank to finance the development of Tribhuvan International Airport in accordance with the airport’s master plan 2010-28. The project had achieved only 17 percent physical progress even by the revised project completion deadline of March 2016.
An anonymous official of the multilateral funding agency told the Post that the project’s financing period ended in December last year. “We are in discussion to launch a fresh project that may be approved in 2020,” he said. “We cannot start a new project without closing the old one.” The financing modality and amount was not immediately clear.
Babu Ram Poudel, chief of the project, said the Asian Development Bank had closed its books in December to begin a fresh account. Poudel said they did not know which component the bank would support, but it would be an airside component like apron and taxiway.
The airport improvement project hit a snag at the very start as the soil to be used as filler for the expansion of the airport could not be obtained after a court order forbade it from digging at the Pashupati quarry. The project needs 2.1 million cubic metres of soil to fill the ravine on the northern side of the runway where 13 new parking bays will be constructed.
A series of subsequent problems further delayed the project. The airport had to be closed when a Turkish Airlines jet crash-landed in March 2015. There were more delays due to the 2015 earthquakes and fuel shortages. The project completion deadline was first extended to March 2016; but after even that looked unachievable, the date was pushed back to 2017. Now, officials expect the project to be completed by 2021.
After sending off the Spanish contractor for the project, Constructora Sanjose, for non-performance in December 2016, the project broke up the scheme into four packages. According to Poudel, some components like the construction of a new international terminal building would be completed by December.
The extension of the runway at its southern end, or runway 02, will be completed by June next year, he said.
Poudel said that the fourth package, that includes supplying 2.1 million cubic metres of soil to fill the ravine at the northern end of the runway and building new parking bays and around 450 metres of taxiway on the northern side, would take time to be completed. The fourth package is the most critical part, and it is expected to last at least two years.