KATHMANDU: Blacktopping work on the new runway at Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa has started with the completion deadline within six months.
The runway at Nepal’s second international airport in the southern Tarai plains will be 3,000 metres long and 45 metres wide.
Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari who formally inaugurated the blacktopping work of the runway on Tuesday said that the project had achieved 55 percent progress as of October-end.
Minister Adhikari said the contractor of the project had been given six months to complete the blacktopping of the runway. “If things go as planned, we will be able to test the new runway within six months or by March 2019,” Adhikari said.
The government had planned to commence commercial operation of the international airport by July-August 2019 due to better-than-expected physical progress. However, due to delays in the implementation of the second phase of the project which involves installing Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (ANS) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems the project completion deadline has been delayed. Minister Adhikari said that the new airport would be ready for business by the end of 2019.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) awarded the airport upgradation contract to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013. The airport was initially slated to be ready by December 2017. However, shortages of fuel and building materials 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 payments between the Chinese contractor and the Nepali sub-contractor, Northwest Infra Nepal, stalled works at the construction site for more than six months. The latest deadline given by the project financier Asian Development Bank (ADB) to the Chinese contractor is June 2019.