The Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) has shortlisted Zurich Airport International AG, a Swiss company to develop the international Airport in Nijgadh under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.
The IBN’s 40th meeting chaired by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Monday shortlisted Zurich among the seven companies that had submitted the letter of interest to develop the airport that would be one of the largest in the region.The project was showcased during the Nepal Investment Summit 2019, organised in March this year.
Zurich Airport International has 100 days time to submit the detailed proposal for the project development, and a technical committee would study the proposal. Approval from the technical committee will give a ‘go ahead’ to the company.
The Nijgadh International Airport, one of Nepal’s largest infrastructural development project is expected to be one of the largest airports in the ‘world’ – once fully operational the airport is expected to handle 15 million passengers annually.The airport will also be Nepal’s fourth international airport, and aims to fix problems faced by Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu – mainly congestion and inability to land large aircraft.
The proposed airport has also come under fierce criticism, mainly because of its environmental impacts. The massive project, which is expected to sprawl over 8,000 hectares of land will be built after clearing a significant portion of a larger forest in Nepal’s Terai belt. An estimated 2.45 million trees will be felled for the purpose, the impact is going to be significant.
For example, the forest in Nijgad is a part of a larger forest chain which spans from Nepal’s east to west – several animals use the forest for their annual migration, they probably would not like to walk over runways. The airport would increase ‘noise pollution’ significantly, therefore affecting wildlife. Human activities in close proximity to the jungle will also increase the existence of wildlife – poaching being a significant risk.
Several groups are also questioning the need for another international airport in Nepal – with one operational airport in Kathmandu, and two under construction in Bhairawaha and Pokhara respectively, Nijgad Airport will be Nepal’s fourth international airport, too much for 147,181 km².