Kavre, May, 2:
It has been confirmed that Dhulikhel Municipality in Kavrepalanchowk district will have a domestic airport.
Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari confirmed that a domestic airport would be constructed on a hill of Dhulikhel in the near future, but he did not mention the location as the feasibility study is yet to be carried out.
Minister Adhikari together with the Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota, high officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), lawmakers and local representatives made a site visit to the three prospective areas selected for the domestic airport – Nagidanda, Sano Thuichaur and Chisapani Thulichaur on Tuesday.
“An expert team will be formed within a couple of days, and it will conduct the feasibility study. All the work related to the feasibility study will be completed within 15 days. The best location will be selected for the airport construction,” said Adhikari.
State Minister Baskota reminded him that it has been more than a decade since the government had been talking about developing an airport in Dhulikhel, but no progress had been made. Adhikari gave assurances that the airport would be built at one of the three locations.
The hill must be leveled, and high retaining walls need to be constructed on all sides as the airport would be built atop it. All the hills are about 1,700 m to 1800 m from the sea level.
“Nagidanda can have an 800-1,200-metre-long runway, but the ground should be leveled about 20 m for 800 m and about 50 m for 1200 m in length,” said Guru Dutta Adhikari, a consultant involved in the study.
The airport will expand over an area of 25 hectares and can accommodate 20 small aircraft and some helicopters. It will be 100 m-300 m wide.
Similarly, Sano Thulichaur can have a 1150-m-long run way. It has hard rocks 8 to 10 m below ground level.
However, details of Chisapani Thulichaur are not available yet.
Most of the land is covered by forests at all three locations, but Nagidanda would be the easiest in terms of land acquisition.
“Most of the land here belongs to the community forest. Only one third of the land is privately owned, but as there are no houses on the hill, it will be easy to acquire it,” said Jiban Prasad Banjara, one local.
Sano Thulichaur has a military camp, private houses and cultural monuments while Chisapani Thulichaur also has private houses within the proposed airport site.
Bishnu Dhital and Shiva Kumar Thapa, local representatives, pledged to extend every support needed for the project.
Director General of CAAN Sajiv Gautam said that the airport in Dhulikhel will have a two-way take-off and landing facility.
According to him, it would reduce about 20 per cent of the traffic burden on the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
“Internationally, aviation traffic doubles every 15 years. Nepal is also witnessing about 8 per cent growth in air traffic. So we need an alternative to the TIA as soon as possible,” he said.
Gautam said that the construction of the new airport would be completed in about five years at a cost of Rs. 3.5 billion for a 800 m runway and Rs. 5 billion for a 1,200 m runway.
As the only international airport in the country is facing traffic congestion, which is forcing both international and domestic flights to hold up in the sky for several minutes, Minister Adhikari, in his 100-day programme, had pledged to complete the feasibility study of another domestic airport around the Kathmandu Valley.
In an effort to reduce the congestion at the TIA, he had directed the TIA to reschedule the domestic flights in order to make way for the long-haul international flights, planned to create regional aviation hubs and construct an alternative airport in Kavre.