Nepal finally inaugurates Pokhara International Airport

The airport in central Nepal will deliver tourists to the well-known Annapurna Circuit trekking route (Raju Babu/CC BY-SA 4.0)
Nepal’s third international airport opened for business on New Year’s Day when its prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, landed there on a Buddha Air flight, the Kathmandu Post reports.

The project, with a construction cost of around $300m, was financed by a $216m loan from China’s Export–Import bank under the Belt and Road Initiative. It was built by China CAMC, a subsidiary of China National Machinery Industry Corporation.

It is located in the southern suburbs of Pokhara in central Nepal and will deliver tourists to the well-known Annapurna Circuit trekking route.

Pokhara International has a single 2,500m runway and two terminals – a 10,000-sq-m building for international flights and a 4,000-sq-m one for domestic services. Its capacity is expected to be 1 million passengers a year, making it a small airport by international standards.

The foundation stone for the airport was laid in 2016, and work had been expected to complete in the summer of 2021 but work was delayed by a number of problems including covid.

Liu Shengcheng, vice president of CAMC Engineering, said: “After years of hard work, CAMC Engineering has finally completed this challenging project, which will help promote the economic and social development of Nepal and enhance the connection between Pokhara and the world.”

The project has attracted attention for its geopolitical significance in China and India, both of which are competing for influence in Nepal.

Global Times, the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, commented on “critical and even fear-mongering headlines in Indian media”, while some Indian media raised concerns that China would take over the airport if the Nepalese government were unable to repay the Exim Bank’s loan. 

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