Government prodding needed to finish Bhairahawa airport on time, officials sayGautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa was initially slated to be ready by December 2017.
Naresh Pradhan, project officer-transport at the Asian Development Bank, told the Portfolio Review Meeting of Asian Development Bank-supported projects in Nepal on Wednesday that the major civil works had been completed and interior finishing of the terminal had started. “To meet the target of beginning airport operations by March-end, all interior finishing should be completed by February 28,” he said.
According to him, the airport’s runway lights will also be installed by February. “The contractor hired for the second package to install communications, navigation and surveillance equipment has pledged to finish the tasks by March 30,” he said, adding that the target was attainable, but the government needed to conduct stringent monitoring so that project does not stall again.
The airport in Bhairahawa was initially slated to be ready by December 2017. However, fuel and building material shortages due to the months-long Tarai banda in 2015 delayed the upgradation works by six months, and its operation deadline was revised to June 2018.
Subsequently, a dispute over payment between the Chinese contractor and the Nepali subcontractor, Northwest Infra Nepal, held up work at the construction site for more than six months. As a result, the project deadline was extended many times after the initial extensions.
The project started making rapid progress after the appointment of the late Rabindra Adhikari as a tourism minister.
“Gautam Buddha International Airport under the South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project is a good example of how leadership and improved implementation arrangement can positively impact the progress of a project. It is one of the projects that has met both its contract awards and disbursement targets for this year,” said Asian Development Bank Country Director for Nepal Mukhtor Khamudkhanov.
The multilateral funding agency said it had disbursed $227.3 million from January to October, which is higher compared to the same period last year. Of the net available funding amount of $2.96 billion spread over 31 investment projects and two programme loans, 54 percent has been contracted out and 55 percent has been disbursed as of October 31, it said.
Revenue Secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana said that challenges remain in ensuring speed and efficiency in project delivery. “The executing and implementing agencies should be more concerned about completing projects on time so as to get the expected results on the ground.”
The bank has recently approved its latest country partnership strategy for Nepal, 2020-24, which focuses on three priority areas: improved infrastructure for private sector-led growth, improved access to devolved services, and environmental sustainability and resilience.
Under the new strategy, the bank expects to lend an estimated $500 million to $600 million during 2020-22.
“As the volume of lending increases and the portfolio grows in the future, it is even more important that we pay attention to timely contract awards and disbursements. Successful project implementation is key to bringing results on the ground and improving the lives of the Nepali people,” said Khamudkhanov.