The fate of Nijgadh International Airport in Bara district has become uncertain after the Supreme Court on December 22 continued the interim order of December 6 to halt all field works at the construction site. The SC’s direction followed a writ petition filed on August 22 expressing concerns related to the environmental impact of felling a large number of trees that are 500 to 600 years old at the project site. The stay order has thrown out of gear the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation’s plans to commence construction of the mega project this year. Centred around this issue, Arpana Ale Magar of The Himalayan Times caught up with Secretary of Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kedar Bahadur Adhikari to know further about the challenges of NIA and with Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment Bishwa Nath Oli to know about the current situation facing the country’s forest areas and existing rules on felling trees for development projects. Excerpts:
Firstly, could you explain the significance of NIA?
The major question is whether or not we want to improve our status from being one of the least developed countries. Nepal still does not have a full-fledged airport that can take advantages of air business. A full-fledged airport means having more than a single runway, terminal building, cargo building and big hangars, and aircraft maintenance centre, airport hotel and other infrastructure. NIA will have the capacity to handle 60 million passengers annually, which in turn will generate several economic opportunities. And for all these benefits, we are building NIA. NIA will support not only tourism and aviation sectors but also help diversify our trade through reliable cargo services. It could help the country meet the target of double-digit growth. NIA is something the country needs, rather than just an object of desire. That is why this airport is a game-changer project for the country’s economy.
What are the challenges for NIA construction?
Forest clearance at the construction site is the major challenge for us at present. Although the Environment Impact Assessment of the project has already been approved, we are yet to receive permission from the Ministry of Forests and Environment to fell trees for site clearance. Earlier we planned to select the contractor and clear the site simultaneously as the latter would …..
Read the full interview on The Himalayan Times.