Kathmandu, December 21
Stakeholders have urged the government to construct Nijgadh International Airport at any cost to develop the country’s economy.
At an interaction organised here today by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, stakeholders stressed the economic benefits that NIA would bring.
Economist Shankar Sharma said NIA could be the backbone of the country’s economy. “Most industries are based in Province 2, and it is also a hub for tourism and agriculture sectors,” he said. “Province 2 will benefit the most from this airport.”
He also said the number of tourists is increasing rapidly across the world and the highest number of tourists is from the Asia-Pacific region. “Among countries from Asia-Pacific region, tourists from India and China travel all over the world,” Sharma said, adding, “NIA will help bring more tourists from India and China and also connect Nepal directly with European countries.”
Likewise, economist Surendra Upreti urged the authorities not to get mired in discussions on an alternative to the NIA. “It is true that the country now needs a full-fledged international airport that can handle the ever-rising passenger and aircraft movement and become an international tourist hub,” he said, adding that the NIA can also provide air cargo services which will directly help the country’s economy. So, it is pointless to look for an alternative at the moment as construction of NIA has already been delayed by 25 years, he added.
Speaking about the emerging issue of environmental damage that could be caused while building NIA, Upreti said no mega infrastructure has been built anywhere in the world without some collateral damage to the environment. “So, instead of putting construction of the airport in the back-burner, we should look at ways to carry out construction activities with minimal environment destruction,” he emphasised. “Let the government build the airport and operate it in a full-fledged manner.”
Upreti further claimed that if the airport came into operation, it would boost the country’s gross domestic product by five to eight percentage points.
Meanwhile, environmentalist Ripu Maharjan mentioned that the demand of environmentalists was that the development process and the environment be dealt with simultaneously.
“Environment is necessary for human beings and we just cannot ignore it in favour of any development work,” he said. “So, the government has to come up with a concrete plan on how the impact on the environment can be reduced while building the airport and how wildlife can be managed after construction is over,” he said.
Addressing stakeholders’ queries, Rajan Pokhrel, director general of CAAN, said that to address the increasing air congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport and to open the door for economic sources, the government will build the NIA soon.
A version of this article appears in print on December 22, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.