Jul 13, 2024

Parliamentary committees started studying Gautam Buddha International Airports

Parliamentary committees started studying Gautam Buddha International Airports

BHAIRAHAWA,  July 09: A sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from the House of Representatives has started an in-depth investigation into the issues plaguing the operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport. The committee, chaired by Yogesh Bhattarai, Secretary of CPN-UML, is examining problems related to construction, land acquisition, compensation distribution, and equipment procurement.

From June 30 to July 2, the sub-committee engaged with representatives from various agencies, including the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority, Airport Office, Airport Project, Federal Parliament, Provincial Assembly MPs, local representatives, and private sector stakeholders in Rupandehi. The sub-committee also visited Lumbini to discuss the impact on the birthplace of Buddha.

Bhattarai revealed that the government has acquired 36450000 sq. feet of land for the airport and spent 22 billion rupees. The necessity of such extensive land acquisition and potential irregularities in compensation distribution are under scrutiny. The total government expenditure on the airport stands at 36 billion rupees, covering construction costs, runway, control tower, equipment, and compensation.

Since its inauguration two years ago, the airport has struggled to maintain regular flights, with current operations limited to chartered flights. The sub-committee’s discussions highlighted issues such as the absence of essential services like visa centers, manpower companies, and insurance offices, as well as a narrow terminal building.

Private sector representatives and local MPs expressed frustration over government negligence, citing substantial investments by private enterprises in the region. Krishna Prasad Sharma, President of the Federation of Commerce and Industry in Lumbini Province, reported over 80 billion rupees invested in Bhairahawa and Lumbini, which have yet to yield returns due to the airport's underutilization.
Tourism businesses and local commerce leaders also voiced concerns about the concentration of international flights at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, which they believe hampers regional development. They suggested completing all processes for international travel through Bhairahawa, particularly for the significant number of youths from the region seeking employment abroad.

Vice President of CPN UML, Bishnu Paudel, emphasized the national importance of the airport and criticized the government’s lack of prioritization. He urged for a coordinated effort to operationalize the airport effectively, suggesting a timetable for action.
Bhattarai concluded that the sub-committee will conduct thorough investigations and provide a comprehensive report with recommendations to the PAC, aiming to resolve the operational challenges and ensure the airport's full functionality.