Kathmandu, October 31
Businesspersons have announced a protest demanding the regular operation of international flights from Gautam Buddha International Airport, located in Bhairahawa.
The airport has yet to conduct regular flights even a year and a half after its inauguration. In a bid to press the government to create a conducive environment for air travel, businesspersons have declared a range of protest programs, including relay hunger strikes.
They say that investments worth billions of rupees from both the government and private sector are in jeopardy due to the lack of regular international flights.
Approximately Rs 40 billion has been invested in constructing the airport, which includes compensation provided to the public during land acquisition. Additionally, the private sector has contributed around Rs 80 billion for the development of five-star hotels and other infrastructure. Businesspersons are concerned that these substantial investments may face losses due to the absence of regular international flights.
The coordinator of the protest, Anil Kumar Gyawali, stated that they plan to stage a sit-in at the airport gate for two days. If their demands are not met, starting from December 11, they intend to continue the sit-in indefinitely and also halt the border crossing at Belahiya.
“We made efforts in every possible way to establish regular international flights from the airport. However, when our pleas fell on deaf ears, we were left with no choice but to initiate a street protest,” says Gyawali who is the President of Chamber of Commerce, Rupandehi. “We are committed to intensifying our movement until regular flights are conducted here.”
The Gautam Buddha International Airport, inaugurated on May 16, 2022, has yet to conduct regular flights. Jazeera Airlines, which commenced international flights on the inaugural day, ceased operations after a while. Likewise, Himalaya Airlines, which initially operated chartered flights, has also discontinued its services.
Presently, only Nepal Airlines is conducting one flight per week at the Gautam Buddha International Airport.