KATHMANDU, Feb 17: After being stalled for more than seven months, the process of constructing the Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) is set to resume after the government decided to give the go-ahead to China CAMC, the lowest bidder for the project.
The construction process for PRIA had failed to take on momentum when the lowest cost quoted by the bidder turned out to be double the cost estimated earlier.
About a month ago, China CAMC had expressed interest in working under the earlier estimation.
Suman Shrestha, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), said they had asked the ministry to forward the proposal after the lowest bidder expressed interest in working under the earlier estimation.
“As it was not under our authority to response to the bidder´s request, we had sought the help of the ministry to send the proposal to the cabinet,” he added.
The cabinet meeting on Thursday had decided to approve the proposal of the ministry, which had requested approval of China CAMC´s request.
Ranjan Krishna Aryal, joint-secretary at the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), said as legal provisions did not allow the ministry or CAAN to either approve or reject the proposal, they had sought a way out through the cabinet. “As the project is associated with a soft loan we approached the cabinet after consulting the Ministry of Finance,” he said.
According to CAAN officials, the civil aviation authority had estimated the PRIA project to cost US$ 175 million, but the lowest price quoted by China CAMC is US $305.13 million. The government plans to construct the airport under an EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) model, using a soft loan from EXIM Bank of China.
The overall process of selecting the contractor had drawn controversy after CAAN published the tender notice with a short deadline of 45 days. Lawmakers on the then Public Accounts Committee had also raised questions over the fairness of the bidding process after they found that Finance Minister Barshaman Pun had signed an agreement with China CAMC Engineering, assuring it of the contract.
The government had acquired 3,106 ropani of land at Chhinedanda in 1975 for the construction of the airport.
Meanwhile, locals of Pokhara who have been staging protests against the delay over PRIA, have welcomed the decision of the cabinet. A press statement of the Pashchimanchal Hotel Association Pokhara (PHAP) stated that construction of the airport was certain to boost tourism in Pokhara and the surrounding region.