Saidpur airport’s slow upgrading upsets Nepal

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:00, Jul 20,2019


Nepal wants to use Saidpur Airport in Nilphamari once it has been upgraded as agreed in principle but is upset about the slow progress of its modification for regional connectivity, said Nepal’s acting ambassador in Bangladesh Dhan Bahadur Oli.

During an interaction with reporters in Nepal’s embassy on Thursday evening, Oli also said that their decision to use the airport after its upgradation was mutually agreed with Bangladesh in 2018.

He said that once the airport would be ready it would connect other airports in Nepal, besides its only current international airport in Kathmandu, as his country was developing more international airports.

The Nepalese diplomat has disclosed that the closest domestic airport they are upgrading to international level is at Biratnagar, the third largest city in Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara.

‘It will take only a 20-minute fly from Saidpur to reach Biratnagar,’ said Oli in reply to a query from New Age.

Saidpur Airport in the northern Nilphamari district has started its journey as a domestic airport in 1979 and is located two kilometres from Saidpur town and 350 kilometres from capital Dhaka.

In November 2015, prime minister Sheikh Hasina renewed her offer to Nepal to use the airport at Saidpur as well as the seaports at Chittagong and Mongla to enhance the regional connectivity.

Nepal started using the Mongla seaport recently, said the Nepalese diplomat.

In March 2018, during a meeting with Bangladesh civil aviation ministry officials, then Indian high commissioner in Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla expressed India’s interest in investing in modernising Saidpur Airport.

Asked about the stage of the airport’s development, Md. Mohibul Haque, civil aviation and tourism ministry secretary, told New Age that the consultant assigned for the modernisation work has completed their job and the government is now in the process of acquiring 750 acres of land in Dianajpur and Nilphamari for the airport, apart from the airport’s existing 136-acre area.

‘I hope the acquisition will be completed within three months,’ the secretary said on Friday, adding that the construction would then be started with Indian line of credit.

Meanwhile, the Nepalese ambassador announced that the Himalaya Airlines, a Nepal-China joint venture airline, would start flying on Dhaka-Kathmandu route from July 22.

With the new airline flights operating, Biman Bangladesh Airlines would lose its monopoly business on the route on which the Bangladeshi national flag carrier operates six flights a week.

Himalaya Airlines would operate three flights a week.

Nepal’s ambassador commented that when there was only one airline operating flights on a route, there were difficulties in getting tickets.

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