A Mega Project Begins
The first day of the Nepali New Year 2073 was an occasion for two cheers for the residents of Pokhara, in particular, and all the Nepalese, in general. This is because this day heralded a new year which they hoped would not be like the past year that remained rather unhappy due to a devastating earthquake that hit the country early on followed by the protracted Madhes agitation and an unofficial economic blockade by India in the wake of the promulgation of the new constitution by the Constituent Assembly in September. It’s also because Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone to build the Pokhara Regional International Airport in the western tourist town in the presence of Maoist leader chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress General Secretary Shashank Koirala along with his deputies Bijay Gachchhadar and Kamal Thapa.
The Rs. 22 billion project, to be executed by China’s CMC Engineering Company with the financial support of Exim Bank of China and planned to be completed in the next four years, reflects the Nepali people’s long-held dream of development and prosperity. The second international airport to spread over 3,735 ropanis of land in ward No. 14, 15 and 16 of Pokhara Sub-Metropolis is one of the several mega projects Nepal is going to implement in the next few years. They include, among others, Lumbini Airport, Nijgadh Airport, mid-hill highway and east-west railway. During Prime Minister Oli’s recent visit to China, the northern neighbour had agreed to extend the Chinese railway to Lumbini via Kerung, and connect Kathmandu with Pokhara.
It’s been long since the Nepalese have heard of projects which can make a real difference in their lives. Such projects never materialised in the past because the political parties and the successive governments talked about them on and off only for political gains and public consumption. So the Nepalese people’s dream for prosperity has always remained a far cry thanks to the flippancy on the part of the political forces regarding the country’s development and inaction on the part of the successive governments, which shelved the projects initiated by the earlier governments to serve their short-term interest. This situation is not likely to change unless all the parties work in unison to build key infrastructure to give the country a facelift. Against this backdrop, it’s heartening to know that the major ruling parties and the main opposition came together during the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of the Pokhara International Airport. The political parties seem to have finally realised that politics in development works is not in the long-term interest of the nation, neither is it in their own interest.
It’s beyond doubt that the construction of the second international airport would give impetus to the economic development of not only Pokhara but also the entire country. It will serve as an alternative airport in case of an emergency and further boost Pokhara’s image as a tourist city. It will also serve as a gateway to bring in more tourists to the country and earn more foreign currency. The construction of the Pokhara international airport has indeed unlocked the development potential of all regions – Terai, hills and mountains of Nepal. It has raised hope among the people that the political parties are now ready to make collective efforts for the development of the country. However, the Madhes-based parties have shown reservation over some provisions in the new constitution and are preparing to begin another round of protests to get their grievances addressed. They need to understand that a large majority of people, including the Madhesis themselves, are not in favour of yet another political movement. So they should respond to the government’s call for dialogue to resolve their differences and work together with other political forces for the advancement of the country rather than engage in agitation and protests aimed at destabilising the nation and hampering development.
Surya Nath Upadhyaya is a member of the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) from Nepal’s side. The EPG has a two-year term, and it has already spent...