KATHMANDU, Aug 4: Local people of Pokhara on Saturday submitted a memorandum to Nepal Congress President Sushil Koirala asking his party to exert pressure on the government to implement the development of Regional International Airport in the lake city.
Koirala after accepting the memorandum said, “Nepali Congress is positive about the construction of the airport and the party will try its best to materialize the project.”
Biplab Paudel, President of Pashchimanchal Hotel Association Pokhara (PHAP) who led a team of hoteliers and other tourism entrepreneurs along with other stakeholders raised concerns over the latest problems faced by the project, particularly the opposition from Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) emplyees unions to construct the project.
"It is very unfortunate that the project has moved nowhere even after four decades of land acquisition and commitments by subsequent governments to develop it," Paudel stated. The government had acquired 3,106 ropanis of land at Chhinedanda in Pokhara for the construction of the airport in 1975.
Local entrepreneurs had accused the political parties of limiting their commitment to construct the airport in Pokhara to election campaigns and political slogans. They had also met with other senior leaders of NC, including Ram Chandra Paudel, Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Prakash Man Singh, who are in the city to press the party for the earliest commencement of the project implementation.
They had earlier met with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, other political leaders and senior government officials at Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and CAAN several times to exert pressure.
"It is very surprising and sad that the employees´ unions of CAAN are not in favor of the construction of the airport, which has been included in the government´s National Pride Projects," reads the memorandum.
The local stakeholders had got together to press for the project mainly after four different employees´ unions of the CAAN last week asked the management to scrap the decision to construct the airport referring to ´high price´ quoted by the Chinese contractors for the engineering, designing and development works.
According to CAAN, China Agriculture Machinery Corporation (CAMC) - the lowest bidder for the project - has quoted a price which almost doubles the estimations made in the initial stage for the airport´s development. Officials said its quotation price stands at around US $ 304 million. The study carried by the CAAN about a year ago had estimated the cost to be around US $ 166 million.
The government has been planning to implement the project with soft loans from Chinese Exim Bank. CAAN officials said the Chinese government has agreed for a soft loan of US $ 145 million for the project.
However, employees´ union of CAAN expressed the disagreement with the implementation of the project, arguing that its quotation was ´unnaturally´ high and would add unnecessary financial burden to the authority.