POKHARA, Aug 18: The locals of Pokhara have decided not to allow any flights to and from Pokhara for a day next week to pressure the government to initiate the process of construction of the proposed international airport in the city.
In a meeting with local industrialists, businessmen, tourism entrepreneurs and representatives from mothers´ groups on Saturday, Nepal Association of Tours and Travel Agents (NATTA) announced that it will not sell flight tickets to and from Pokhara for August 23.
“It´s our attempt to force the government to begin the process of constructing international airport in Pokhara at the earliest."
NATTA president Sharma has urged all those who have already booked the tickets for August 23 to either postpone or prepone their flight schedules. Sharma has even threatened to padlock the arrival and departure areas at Pokhara Airport, if needed, to make their protest programs even more effective.
Tikaram Sapkota, president of the Pokhara Tourism Council, said that they will wait to hear a positive response from the government till August 31. “If the government does not respond positively, we will disrupt all the flights to and from Pokhara for an indefinite period,” Sapkota said. “We know it´s not a good decision to disrupt flights, but we´re forced to take this extreme step.”
There are 124 travel agencies in Pokhara. Most of them sell tickets for not only Pokhara-Kathmandu flights but also for the flights to and fro Jomsom and Manang, two of Nepal´s popular tourist destinations.
As around 70 percent of tickets are booked through travel agencies, airlines will not get enough passengers to operate flights if the NATTA abstains from selling tickets.
Earlier, a struggle committee formed by the locals to exert pressure on the government to build the airport had staged a sit-in for an hour in front of the regional office of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
The locals have accused the CAAN unionists of halting the process of constructing what would be the second international airport of Nepal.
The CAAN unionists have stood against the construction of Pokhara International Airport, arguing that the project is simply not affordable.
The CAAN had estimated the cost of construction at Rs 12 billion. But later, China CMC, the lowest bidder in the tender process, put the cost at Rs 27 billion, drawing flak from the CAAN employees.