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Works resume at Gautam Buddha airport

BHAIRAHAWA:  Works at the construction site of the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa, which were halted due to payment dispute, resumed from Saturday after the Chinese contractor took the initiative to give continuity to the suspended job on its own.

The construction work at the project site came to a halt two weeks ago due to payment dispute between the Chinese contractor, Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group, and a local contractor.

A multi-stakeholder meeting held on March 21 had reached an understanding to conduct an assessment of works completed so far and due payments that needed to be settled by respective parties within five days.  The Chinese contractor has claimed that full payment has been released to local contractors, while Nepali contractors have claimed that payments are still remaining.

“Although there was an agreement to resume the construction works after the settlement of payment dispute, the local contractor company has softened up and has allowed the Chinese contractor to resume the work,” said Om Prakash Sharma, chief of the airport project. “The Chinese contractor itself has arranged some of the equipment and machineries to begin works at the construction site.” It has mobilised two loaders, an excavator, two other heavy-duty vehicles and three tippers to begin the suspended work.

The contractor is also preparing to extend Rs5 million to the district coordination committee to purchase river-based construction materials, such as sand and stones, according to Sharma.

The Chinese contractor has also submitted documents at the project office saying it is preparing to replace the local contractor with five other local contractors. “It has repeatedly said it will form a new team to complete the construction work,” said Sharma. “If the Chinese contractor is not deemed capable of completing the works within the deadline, we are also thinking of dividing the project into several packages and hire contractors accordingly to complete the construction works within the stipulated timeframe.”

If the construction work gathers momentum, there is strong possibility of completing the construction works on time, Sharma claimed.

The airport was originally slated to be ready in December 2017. However, shortages of fuel and building materials due to the months-long Tarai banda in 2015 delayed work by six months and its operation deadline was extended to June 2018. The latest problems mean that the project completion deadline will likely be pushed back to 2019.

The national pride project has been envisaged to serve the fast-rising business and industrial hub of Bhairahawa and facilitate international pilgrimage tourism to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.

–  By Madhav Dhungana for TKP

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