Feb 032016
 

A worn billboard until now, long-projected Pokhara International Airport might soon be under construction

A worn billboard until now, long-projected Pokhara International Airport might soon be under construction

While reconstruction after the earthquake has barely started, Pokhara International Airport – 40 years in waiting – now appears close to take-off! In fact, two years ago chances still looked slim. But now the USD 215 million project is just a signature-on-a-loan-document away from driving in the dozers. So, who’s providing the loan? Well, not surprisingly, perhaps, China – as opposed to India. Indeed, the southern neighbor has instead been suspected of putting pressure on the government till now to stall the project!

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Dream come true for the local hotel association: more tourists – including Chinese – coming to Pokhara

The leaders in Kathmandu, and specifically the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), recently gave the go-ahead to once and for all start digging. Is the ongoing crisis with India, and a climate of closer economic relations with China, part of this decision? Well, that’s the kind of speculation circulating in the media. But in Pokhara, the local Hotel Association might worry less about motives of the government and be more acutely interested in finally getting the deal signed and the project fully airborne!

Signing with the Chinese: CAMC Engineering won the contract (picture), Chinese Exim Bank provides the loan

Signing with the Chinese: CAMC Engineering won the contract (picture), Chinese Exim Bank provides the loan

It’s the Chinese Exim Bank who’s providing the loan. It’s a soft loan too of exactly USD 215,95 million, and the contractor to construct the airport – including a 2,500 m. runway, which is long enough to accommodate Airbus 320 and Boing 757 – is also Chinese: the CAMC Engineering Co Ltd.. They won the tender already in 2012. Indeed, once completed Pokhara International Airport will offer a real alternative to Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu with take-offs to the Gulf countries and many others. If all works out, tourists will be flying in to Pokhara directly in just a few years!

While the Lumbini International Airport is only on the drawing board, Pokhara might soon look like this

While the Lumbini International Airport is also on the runway, seems Pokhara (picture) just got ahead

Exim Bank just reassured Nepal’s government that the loan document is soon ready for them. To the Hotel Association in Pokhara who made protests back in 2013 in demand for the government to fast-track the project, this is good news amidst an otherwise very difficult situation for tourist operators as shortages under the Indian blockade go on. But what about the other International Airport project proposed near Lumbini down in Terai? Well, it would appear Pokhara just got ahead, if the loan document is indeed signed. The next few months will tell.

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