Privatization drive of Gautam Buddha Int’l Airport and Pokhara Airport gains momentum


December 4, 2023


Privatization drive of Gautam Buddha Int’l Airport and Pokhara Airport gains momentum

Gautam Buddha International Airport, Bhairahawa/File Photo

KATHMANDU: The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) is poised to entrust the management of two newly-established international airports to the private sector.

In a strategic move, the CAAN plans to delegate the operation responsibilities of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa and Pokhara International Airport in Pokhara through a consolidated package under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Facing financial challenges and a rise in managerial lapses post the launch of the new airports, the Authority has opted to involve the private sector in operations.

A source at the CAAN revealed, “Given the current structure, there’s limited potential for airport improvement; hence, preparations are underway to align Nepal’s airports with an international operational model.”

Inspired by the modality employed by GMR in India, the authority seeks to bring about a transformation in Nepal’s airport management. GMR Company has a successful track record of operating airports in India.

Reflecting a global trend, numerous airports worldwide are adopting the PPP model.

Consequently, the Government of Nepal has granted approval for the authority to proceed with the privatization process.

Initiating a global tender, the Authority is pursuing the involvement of a reputable company.

The government’s directive is clear – bring in the private sector to optimize benefits for Nepal.

The CAAN has asserted that private sector involvement is imperative for achieving international operational and marketing standards, considering the significant state investment in these projects.

Previously, the Authority had contemplated adopting a Government-to-Government (G2G) model for Bhairahawa Airport’s operation.

However, the leadership reconsidered, and now, both Bhairahawa and Pokhara Airports are set to be handed over to the private sector.

Pokhara International Airport/File Photo

Bhairahawa Airport’s construction, initiated in 2071 BS, faced delays but is now operational as of 2078 BS.

Gautam Buddha International Airport, constructed with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), commenced operations eight years after its foundation stone was laid.

Similarly, Pokhara International Airport, built by CAMC Engineering at a cost of 22 billion rupees, has concluded construction and hosted international flights.

The CAAN has now determined to forge ahead with a fresh approach, acknowledging that the venture may involve investment without an immediate return.

The progression of Gautam Buddha International Airport was interrupted as the authority reconsidered transitioning back to the Government-to-Government (G2G) model.

Earlier, efforts were made to hand over operations in the G2G model, involving German Munich Airport, but the initiative was halted midway.

GMR Group, a prominent player in airport operations, has a notable presence in India and beyond.

The company currently owns and manages Delhi International Airport and Hyderabad International Airport.

Additionally, GMR is actively involved in the development of a greenfield airport at Mopa in North Goa and an international greenfield airport at Bhogpuram in Andhra Pradesh.

The group has assumed the operation and maintenance responsibilities for the civilian enclave at Bidar Airport in North Karnataka.

Internationally, GMR is engaged in the operation and development of Mactan Cebu International Airport, the Philippines’ second-largest airport, in collaboration with Megawide Construction Corporation.