Is Nepal’s New Airport Dream an Environmental Nightmare? [The Diplomat, 28/12/19]
Is Nepal’s New Airport Dream an Environmental Nightmare?
Studies have ranked Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the only international airport of Nepal, as one of the worst airports in South Asia in terms of security, traffic jams, and other facilities. Nepal desperately needs another international airport in order to tackle the growing flow of international passengers.
According to a report published by the Asian Development Bank, the number of international passengers at TIA will reach 7.29 million by 2028 and the current airport cannot handle that many travelers.
Realizing the importance of a new airport, Nepal’s government initiated the process of constructing a second international airport in Nijgadh, in the Bara district on Nepal’s southern plain, three decades ago, but there has been no progress yet.
In recent years, the government has taken some initiatives to hasten the construction of the airport but it has meet with strong opposition from environmentalists. Now a recent court order has put further progress on hold.
The government plans to develop this airport in Nijgadh as an international hub for 22 countries. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal had started acquiring land for the construction and has already made an agreement with the Nepal Army to cut trees to clear space.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation unveiled last year, 2.4 million trees, both big and small, will have to be felled to construct the airport. Environmentalists are protesting the plan, stating that it will have a devastating effect on the environment.
Activists are urging the government to change the location of the airport and chose a new site where there will be minimal environmental impact.