Chinese contractor on track to complete Nepal's next int'l airport project in western Pokhara city: Nepali official

A Chinese contractor completed most of the civil works of an under-construction international airport in Nepal's western Pokhara city even during the coronavirus pandemic in a huge boost to make it ready for operation by the middle of 2021, a senior official of the project said.

China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd, the Chinese contractor has continued the construction works by mobilizing Nepali and Chinese workers even during the COVID-19 pandemic to complete the project which is located at Pokhara city in western Kaski district of Gandaki province of Nepal.

The Pokhara International Airport is being built with the Chinese assistance by loan from China EXIM bank and it is one of the two under-construction international airports in Nepal with another being constructed at southwestern Bhairahawa city. Nepal currently has only single operating international airport in Kathmandu - Tribhuvan International Airport, which is struggling to accommodate ever increasing number of air passengers in the recent years.

"We are on a track to complete the project within the set deadline of July 2021," Binesh Munakarmi, chief of Pokhara International Airport Project told Xinhua on Thursday. "Only 12-15 percent of the civil works are remaining to be completed while equipment to be installed for conducting international flights is on the way to Nepal from China."

Officials at the airport authority said although the works in the project was moving ahead in a pace to complete the construction works before the deadline, lockdown imposed by the Nepali government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 slowed down the construction works. So, they said that it is hardly possible to complete the project before the deadline.

According to Munakarmi, the works related to runaway, taxiway, apron and access road connecting the highway to the terminal building have already completed. "All 14 buildings being built for various purposes including terminal, air traffic control, hanger, immigration, cargo and customs are in the final phase of completion." said Munakarmi.

According to him, around 120 Nepali workers and 200 Chinese workers are busy to complete the remaining works. The project authority plans to start installation of equipment in late 2020 and complete in early 2021.

According to Munakarmi, various equipment including communication and navigation equipment and elevators are on way to Nepal from China. In order to install the equipment, the project office is also preparing to bring the Chinese technical manpower along with other workers.

"We need to bring about 200 Chinese workers including technical human resources to finalize ongoing civil works and install the equipment," said Munakarmi. "We have already prepared necessary paperwork and forwarded it to higher authority to bring 30 technical human resources from China initially."

Nepal which had suspended all international flights since March 22 to prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic, has allowed resumption of scheduled international flights in a restricted format starting from early September.

After installation of equipment, testing and commissioning work will be carried out. "We have confidence these works will be completed in the upcoming months and the contractor will hand over the project within the deadline," said Munakarmi.

The construction work in the project had started in July 2017. Nepali government has signed soft loan agreement with China Exim Bank to finance the project.

The runway of Pokhara International Airport is 2,500 meters in length and 45 meters in width which can handle medium category jets such as Boeing 757 and Airbus 320, according to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the regulatory body of the aviation sector.

Pokhara International Airport is one of the much prioritized "National Pride Projects" in the Himalayan country.

Pokhara is one of the key tourist hubs of Nepal as the majestic mountains, lakes, trekking trails, adventure sports are some of the major attractions of the city. 

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