KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has formally inaugurated the Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) in Bhairahawa today.
On the occasion, the PM said that with the opening of GBIA has created foundation for the nation’s tourism and sustainable economic development, expressing the belief that tourist arrivals will increase with this.
Stating that Nepal is a country with immense possibilities for tourism, he believed this airport would be of help in utilizing the tourism potentials and disseminating the message about Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, throughout the world.
Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand said the Gautam Buddha Airport will support promoting tourism in a big way. He shared that although the construction of the airport was delayed to some extent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is successfully constructed through the joint efforts from all sides. The Home Minister also thanked the former Prime Minister and the former Tourism Minister for their positive role in the construction of the GBIA.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Prem Bahadur Ale expressed that Nepal’s message of peace and prosperity would be spread across the world from the land of the Buddha. He said GBIA is one among the five national pride projects to be completed, adding that the country’s tourism and economic development would take a stride after the completion of all these five projects under the Ministry of Tourism.
The Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister also announced that the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and GBIA would be operated 24 hours from today.
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) director-general Pradeep Adhikari said GBIA will be an alternative of TIA with the operation of international flights. He further added that the operation of GBIA has put to an end the compulsion of having to divert airplanes to the neighbouring countries in situations when aircraft could not land or take off from TIA due to technical problems.
Saying that this airport situated at Siddharthanagar Municipality has been taken as a multi-dimensional project of Nepal, the CAAN director-general described it as the gateway to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and a means of connecting it to the rest of the world.
The construction of the GBIA had been started in early 2015 with the target of completing it in December of 2017. However, the construction was stalled in the middle due to the negligence of the construction company. Although the latest deadline was set for March 2020, the airport has been brought for commercial operation about five years later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CAAN said approximately Rs 11 billion has been invested in the first phase of this project constructed with the soft loan provided by the Asian Development Bank. The process of construction of the terminal building under the second phase would be forwarded soon. The airport is constructed by a Chinese construction company.
Domestic airlines have been operating flights soon after conducting the calibration flight. Private airlines companies as Buddha Air, yeti Airlines, Shree Airlines, Saurya Airlines, among other companies are operating flights from here.