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International Airport Vital for Pokhara
Nepal's second largest city is a major passenger destination
Rup Narayan Dhakal (a2zruna)     Print Article 
Published 2006-09-24 11:29 (KST)   
For three decades the people of Pokhara in Nepal have been asking for an international airport, but it has yet to be built.

Politicians campaigning for positions of power, such as parliamentary seats and posts within NGOs, have been promoting an international airport in order to win votes, but they have not been following through.

There are 47 airports in Nepal but only one, Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, is international. Nepal has no alternative international airport and generally Indian airports are being used in cases of emergency landings.

Considering an alternative international airport, the Nepalese government acquired 3106 ropanis (1 ropani = 5476 sq. feet) of land in BS 2032 in Pokhara sub metropolitan, and provided compensation to the farmers. However, the farmers are still using that land for paddy farming due to the government's passiveness. Yet, the Pokharali people are still optimistic about the international airport.

Paddy farming at proposed international airport in Pokhara.
©2006 Rup Narayan Dhakal

There is only one local airport in Pokhara, an internationally renowned tourist destination and second largest town of Nepal. According to Mr. Devendra KC, chief of Pokhara Airport, the airport feels congested due to the pressure of the high number of passengers and an increment in the number of flights.

Between 300,000 and 400,000 foreign tourists come to Nepal each year and more than 20 percent visit Pokhara. There is also a huge number of internal passengers who come and go to Pokhara by air. Though they use twin otter planes now, if there is an international airport they can have the opportunity of traveling in high capacity planes at lower prices. More than 100,000 passengers land in Pokhara Airport and the same number of passengers take off from there annually.

According to Ananda Raj Mulmi, former President of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), German and Japanese teams of experts have already recommended Pokhara as a suitable place for an international airport.

Though there is already acquired land in Pokhara, the government is now trying to extend the Gautam Buddha Airport in Lumbini as an international airport and has already allocated the budget to give compensation to the land owners. But the culture, tourism and civil aviation minister Pradeep Gyaneli said that the government was committed to building an international airport in Pokhara.

"The only problem is funds," he said in a recent program held in Pokhara, we are going to negotiate with Indian companies to raise funds for the airport.

According to him the government needs an alternative airport and Pokhara will be given higher priority for that.

Mr. Ganga Dhar Parajuli, vice president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists and an inhabitant of Pokhara, said that the government had withdrawn the 50 millions rupees though it had allocated that fund for the basic development of proposed international airport in Pokhara. "That was very bad decision of the government," Mr. Parajuli said.

Since the government has not got enough funds for an international airport it has to depend upon foreign aid. A former member of the Nepal Tourism Board, Mr. Bishow Shanker Palikhe said that a Japanese bank and some other companies were ready to build an airport in Pokhara but that the government has failed to follow the issue.

The government and even the Pokharali people are still unclear about the airport and whether it will be a SARC base regional international airport or a fully international airport. Most people are agreed for a SARC level international airport in Pokhara.

Since Pokhara is 200 kilometers from Kathmandu, the second largest city in Nepal, and a hub for the whole of western Nepal, an international airport is essential here.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rup Narayan Dhakal

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