Tourism Ministry gets okay to table bills to break up civil aviation bodyThe International Civil Aviation Organisation had raised the need to split the authority to avoid a conflict of interest.
On Thursday, the cabinet gave the go-ahead to the Tourism Ministry to table two pieces of legislation in Parliament—Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Bill and Air Service Authority of Nepal Bill—to implement the break up.
According to the draft bills, regulatory functions—like flight crew and non-flight crew licensing, among other tasks—will be under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal while airports, air navigation services and the civil aviation academy will come under the purview of the Air Service Authority of Nepal.
The plan to break up the civil aviation body into regulator and service provider has dragged on for a decade as the government struggles to finalise a draft of the Integrated Civil Aviation Bill amid bureaucratic setbacks every step of the way.
The board of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal had approved the plan in 2009. Since then, several committees were formed to prepare the draft, but it did not assume complete shape.
In 2014, the Asian Development Bank released funds, amounting to $4.2 million as part of the Air Transport Enhancement Project, to prepare a draft of the Integrated Civil Aviation Bill aimed at facilitating stringent enforcement of safety measures.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation had raised the need to break up the civil aviation body as its dual functions gave rise to a conflict of interest. Since then, several experts and studies have also recommended separation, but the complexity of such a move prevented it from occurring.
“We are optimistic that the long-awaited plan will materialise now,” said Rajan Pokhrel, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. “The draft bills, once registered in Parliament, will go through a round of deliberations before they are endorsed,” he said.
The proposed law envisages integrating previous acts to eliminate conflicts and contradictions at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, which is currently functioning as both regulator and service provider from the same office, and there is no clear demarcation between its duties and organisational structure.
It is expected to replace two existing acts, the Civil Aviation Act 1959 and the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority Act 1996.
Due to delays in passing the legislation, several international aviation safety agencies have even slammed Nepal’s poor progress in ensuring air safety.
In December 2013, the European Commission imposed a blanket ban on all airlines from Nepal from flying into the 28-nation bloc after the September 2012 crash of Sita Air Flight 601 in the Manohara River that killed 19 people, including seven British citizens.
No Nepali airline flies to the EU, but the commission became concerned enough to prevent them from entering the continent after a spate of air crashes in Nepal. Between 2008 and 2012, there were at least two air crashes annually.
The commission had put forth a condition that Nepal’s civil aviation body should urgently stop its dual functioning from the same office.
Recently, Tourism Secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari said that Nepal’s aviation safety had improved a lot, but there were many things to be done because improvement is a continuous process. “We faced many challenges when the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal was formed by dismantling the Department of Civil Aviation.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal was established as an independent regulatory body on December 31, 1998 as a result of the Civil Aviation Act of 1996.
“Now, as per the need of the time, we have to separate the civil aviation body. Now, it has become a necessity,” Adhikari said.