POKHARA, Feb 12: Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has initiated the process for the construction of a regional-level international airport in Pokhara.
CAAN on Friday issued a notice calling for bids from contractors for carrying out the airport construction work. Interested contractors have been given a month´s deadline to bid for the construction.
Officials at CAAN said that the process of selecting the contractor was initiated after the Exim Bank of China assured CAAN of concessional loans for the project. Senior officials at Exim Bank, which has shown keen interest in the project, visited the site repeatedly in the past and recently made a formal commitment of support.
The notice published by CAAN says that the contract bidders would need to be either entirely Chinese parties or firms set up as Chinese joint ventures. This condition has been set as the project is being undertaken with Chinese loan support, officials said.
The CAAN notice has raised hopes among local stakeholders of Pokhara finally having an airport that will operate flights to east Asian and other regional cities. “This has definitely pushed the project a step ahead,” said Murari Bhandari, an engineer at CAAN, who confirmed that Exim Bank recently assured it would definitely support the airport project.
He stated that CAAN took the step even before signing the final loan agreement because the Chinese lender requested it to facilitate the initial process by starting the tender bid and selecting the contractor.
The contractor selected will need to construct the airport as per approved designs and specifications along with building infrastructure of all types. “The airport in Pokhara will be of international standard -- meeting all standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” said Bhandari
The selected firm will also finalize the estimate of actual cost of construction of all necessary infrastructure. Once all those costs are assessed, the government will move on to sign the credit line facility with Exim Bank.
So far, the government has estimated the cost of construction of the regional-level airport at US$ 170 million. The Ministry of Finance had approached Exim Bank for a credit line of around US$ 150 million.
Local stakeholders and tourism entrepreneurs, meanwhile, cheered the latest development.
“This is news that we have been waiting for since years back. The fresh initiative has excited and encouraged us all,” said Biplav Paudel, president of the Western Regional Hotel Association.
Tourism entrepreneurs urged the government to move ahead with the implementation plan, avoiding any hiccups. They said this mainly with reference to the fact that the government had announced the development of an international airport in Pokhara well over three decades ago, but work on the ground never took place till only recently.
It was some 35 years ago that the government first announced the development of an international airport that can support the operation of flights between Pokhara and cities in different regions and had even acquired land for the purpose. However, except for fencing off the acquired land, which was completed last year, it had done nothing.
It has allocated Rs 80 million in the budget for this fiscal year for developing the runway. CAAN is currently undertaking work to level up the land for the runway.