Decision on Pokhara int'l airport in a week: PM Bhattarai
POKHARA, Sept 17: Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai on Monday said that he will take a decision regarding the construction of Pokhara International Airport within one week.
Speaking to journalists in Pokhara, PM Bhattarai urged the locals, who are on the warpath to put pressure on the government to begin the process of building the airport, not to carry out any protest programs for at least one week.
“The people of Pokhara should support the government by calling off all protest programs,” said PM Bhattarai. “The government is serious on the issue. The agitation by the locals has created a lot of pressure. Now, it should be called off.”
PM Bhattarai said that he felt that the agitation by the locals of Pokhara has done an injustice to the UCPN (Maoist). “The UCPN (Maoist) is the party that revived the plan for constructing the airport in Pokhara, which had already been forgotten,” he said. “But the agitation by locals makes it seem as if UCPN (Maoist) has forgotten the issue.”
PM Bhattarai informed that a team of high-level officials will visit China next week to hash out the details about construction of the airport. “Once the team returns to Nepal, the process will move ahead,” he said.
PM Bhattarai also disclosed that he discussed the issue (of the airport) with the Chinese ambassador to Nepal on Sunday.
PM Bhattarai ruled out any possibility of the Exim Bank of China backtracking from its pledge to invest on the project.
“China will not be providing the money as a grant. It will be in the form of loan and China will not change its stance,” he said. “We want to build the airport at the minimum cost possible.”
Despite intense pressure from the locals of Pokhara to start the process of constructing the airport, unions at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) have opposed to the plan, arguing that the international airport would not be viable as the estimated cost of construction is too high.
Initially, the government had planned to build the international airport with a loan of Rs 15 billion from the China Exim Bank. But, the lowest bidder at present, the CMC of China, has proposed to build the airport at the cost of Rs 27 billion.