KATHMANDU, June 5 (Xinhua) — Nepal’s Finance Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) signed a subsidiary loan agreement on Sunday to construct country’s second international airport in Pokhara, which will be built with the financial assistance of the Chinese government.
The new deal reached between the two government agencies has paved a way for the construction of the regional international airport in the western resort town of Pokhara, some 200 km west of the capital of Kathmandu.
High-ranking officials from the Finance Ministry and the CAAN signed the loan deal at an interest rate of 5 percent, Chief of Pokhara Regional International Airport Construction Project Pradip Adhikari told media. The total estimated cost of the airport stands at 216 million U.S. dollars.
The construction of the airport had started on April 13 with the laying of foundation stones by Prime Minister Sharma Oli.
With funding from the China’s Exim Bank, the airport constructed by China’s CAMC Engineering Co is expected to come into operation in July 2020.
This is the second biggest China-funded development project in Nepal, after the 750-megawatt West Seti hydropower which is estimated to cost 1.6 billion U.S. dollars.
China and Nepal reached three separate deals to implement Pokhara Regional International Airport during Prime Minister Oli’s visit to Beijing in March.
First envisaged 42 years ago, the Pokhara airport is expected to boost the Himalayan country’s tourism once the project is completed.
Pokhara, a scenic lake city in western Nepal, is one of the major destinations for tourists. Once the international airport comes into operation in 2020, tourists can fly directly to Pokhara. Now tourists need to fly to Kathmandu first and take domestic flights or vehicles to travel to Pokhara.
Locals in Pokhara are quite hopeful that the new airport will draw foreigners wishing to trek the Annapurna Circuit.
The Annapurna Circuit is a popular name for a trek within the Annapurna mountain range of Central Nepal for which scenic Pokhara is a starting point.
The airport is also expected to help reducing air traffic congestion at the Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu.
Tribhuwan has been the country’s only international airport so far.