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Caan budget stalemate grounds aviation projects

   November 15, 2017        1096   

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has not been able to pass its budget even four months into the fiscal year as Tourism Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev and Caan Director General Sanjiv Gautam have been engaged in a bitter dispute which has hamstrung its operations.

 Airport construction and upgradation projects across the country have been left without funds as the planned Rs43.58 billion capital budget remains in limbo.

According to a Caan source, the Minister Dev has called a board of directors meeting for Wednesday to pass the budget, but that is unlikely to happen as the meeting will lack a quorum. Only four of the eight members of the board are currently in Kathmandu. and two are out of station. Two of the seats on the board are vacant.

Caan has not been able to fill the vacant position of the member representing the Finance Ministry and that of another member who has passed away. Nepal Airlines Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar, who is also a board member, is out of the country.

“Minister Dev has summoned a board meeting in such a situation,” the source said. “Board members have also been invited to come on Friday to see whether there will be a quorum,” the source said. “However, both meetings don’t look like happening.”

With the budget in stalemate, all planned calls for tenders have been delayed. New safety programmes have also been negatively impacted. “In addition to the impact on new projects, old construction projects will be delayed as a result of the budget not being approved.”

According to Caan, a number of new projects are slated to be executed this year, and continuity will be given to old projects. A $28-million rehabilitation project to improve the runway at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), which has been on hold since March, is expected to start moving again.

Last March, the project had shortlisted four firms after evaluating their technical proposals. However, these bidders were not invited to submit financial proposals as the Caan board has not been able to meet.

Likewise, funds have been allocated to extend the taxiway from the southern tip of the approach point of Runway 02. As the 02 approach point is not connected with the taxiway, aircraft require extra time to park on the tarmac after landing.

A new helipad able to accommodate 30 choppers is also planned to be built on the eastern side of the runway. Similarly, the helipads at Nepalgunj, Simikot and Lukla airports are to be expanded this year, he said. Caan has allocated funding to undertake runway overlay works at Pokhara and Nepalgunj airports.

Bharatpur and Janakpur airports are to be equipped with a precision approach path indicator (PAPI), or runway landing lights, to provide visual guidance to pilots. The Tumlingtar Airport runway is also slated to be blacktopped this year.

Moreover, budget allocations have been made for the continuation of old projects, like the improvement of TIA and the upgradation of Gautam Buddha airport in Bhairahawa to an international airport.

The TIA project includes extension of the 3,050-metre runway and expansion of the international terminal building, among other works. The $92-million project has been on hold since December after Spanish contractor Constructora Sanjose was sent off for non-performance.

From The Kathmandu Post