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New Pokhara International Airport, Nepal


Description:

In 1975 the Nepal government acquired 93,106 ropani (158 hectares) of land from 1,500 households for construction of a new airport in Pokhara.[1] The main objective of the new airport is to provide easier access for visitors and develop the area as a tourism hub. The land acquired for the airport was agricultural and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) recognized that the loss of farmland could cause affected people difficulties in maintaining their subsistence livelihoods, assuring that the airport project would open up opportunities for alternative livelihoods in trade and tourism.[2]

The airport project stalled and the land acquired for it was used as pasture for livestock.[3] In March 2013 the government revived the airport project, said that the land acquired for it was insufficient and began making preparations to acquire additional land. People whose lands had been taken in the previous phase of land acquisition said that the government was trying to displace them again and voiced opposition to the additional land acquisition. A spokesman for affected local people said that there was no suitable place for them to relocate to and that they would refuse to give up their land unless their demands for infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and water supply were met.[1] Residents of three wards, 14, 15 and 18, of the Pokhara Sub-Metropolis formed the International Airport Construction Public Concern Struggle Committee to protest against the additional land acquisition. The committee held a press conference stating that the government was trying to displace them and seize their land again and accusing the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) of carrying out a survey on their land without informing them.[4]

The area of land earmarked for additional land acquisition for New Pokhara International Airport was 629 ropani (32 hectares). On 18th December 2014 people were injured in a clash between police and people protesting against land acquisition for the airport. The clash ensued when a number of local people, accusing the government of undervaluing their land and demanding appropriate compensation, attempted to padlock the CAAN airport project office.

Three reports of the action by the landowners give slightly different accounts of the injuries. A Kathmandu Post article on the day of the clash states that at least 10 people were injured, five locals and five police officers.[5] A Kathmandu Post article published the following day stated that 150 landowners had participated in the attempt to lock the project office, reporting that six people were injured, with two of the landowners sustaining serious injuries and admitted to hospital and two police officers also injured.  A spokesperson of the struggle committee said that agitation would continue unless the government provided fair compensation.[6] An article on the Myrepublica news portal stated that as many as eight people, three of whom were policemen, were injured in a ‘scuffle’ and admitted to hospital for treatment. Bodhraj Karki, secretary of the airport struggle committee, said: “Without giving any warning, police started attacking everyone, including women and elderly people.” He said that the compensation rate per ropani of land offered to locals by the airport office was less than half its market price.[7]

At the end of December 2014 the airport facilitation committee announced it has decided to offer  landowners affected by the additional land acquisition substitute land in a different location and a compensation sub-committee had been formed. It was reported that 133 families were demanding higher compensation for land and threatening to obstruct construction of the airport project.[8] In January 2015 the Himalayan Times reported that the Khaski District administration asked local people ‘not to make an issue’ of compensation for land to be requisitioned for the airport. The administration had fixed a compensation rate for 80 ropani (4 hectares) of land in the first phase. But not a single landowner had come forward to accept the compensation. The article reported that demonstrations and clashes over the airport land acquisition issue had been occurring ‘for quite some time’ and that Kaski Chief District Officer, Krishna Bahadur Raut, ‘warned of dire consequences if the landowners continued to hinder the airport project by refusing to accept the offered compensation’.[9] On 15th February 2015 the Kathmandu Post reported that the airport land dispute had been settled, paving the way for construction.[10]

With its beautiful landscape Pokhara is a favourite destination for paragliders, in fact it is the most popular adventure activity in the area. Yet in 2016 entrepreneurs who had established paragliding businesses were worried that flights along the busiest route - Sarangkot-Toripani-Dhikikhola - might be discontinued due to new airspace regulations to keep the way clear for the incoming and outgoing flightpaths of the upcoming New Pokhara International Airport. As many as 90 paragliding flights were being conducted daily on the route and businesses were worried about what would happen to their investments and potential displacement of their activities. Nepal Airport Association Vice-President Shovit Baniy said that other appropriate site would be sought if paragliding flying over Sarangkot and Toripani was no longer feasible. [11] In August 2017 the Director General of CAAN confirmed that New Pokhara Airport will hit paragliding businesses.[12]

In January 2018 heavy earth moving machinery began levelling ground for construction of the runway and terminal building, as speculators bought up land along the highway and access road. The first priority for the firm awarded the contract to build the airport, China CMAC Engineering Co (CMAC), was reinforcement of the perimeter fence, which had holes in the wire mesh through which villagers were still bringing their cattle and water buffalo for grazing.[3] Construction work on New Pokhara Airport intensified in August 2018 after a visit to the site by the Prime Minister, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli. USD429,000 had been allocated for land compensation but of this sum only USD85,800 had been distributed. Approximately 180 people had filed for compensation but 150 people had still not made an application to receive compensation.[13] Officials responsible for construction of the airport said that the acquired land was insufficient and yet more additional land was required, with preparations underway for land measurement. Nepali Oil Corporation (NOC) had demanded another 2 hectares of land after declaring the land allocated for fuel storage was insufficient and said land was also needed for a helipad. In addition, more land was required for the airport apron to accommodate more aircraft, as tourist numbers might increase in the future. Local people were opposed to this new phase of land acquisition.[14]

By 15th August 2018, the land eyed for expansion of the airport area had already been surveyed and affected local people had protested and expressed anger over yet another land acquisition process, the fourth since the inception of the project. Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) anticipated that the airport would commence operations by July 2021.[15] The phased additional land acquisition for the airport expands the site area to approximately the 200 hectares allocated to the project in the feasibility report.[16]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:New Pokhara International Airport, Nepal
Country:Nepal
State or province:Gandaki Pradesh province
Location of conflict:Pokhara
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The New Pokhara International Airport site is at Chinnedanda, just 3 kilometres distance from Pokhara Airport, the existing airport serving the region. A USD216 million loan for construction of New Pokhara International Airport, part funding the project, was finalized by China Export Import Bank on 11th July 2017. China CMAC Engineering Co (CMAC) was awarded the contract to construct and develop the airport, commencing construction in August 2016. CMAC’s bid for the project, the lowest at USD305 million, was nevertheless significantly higher than the USD175 million budget originally set for the project.[17]

New Pokhara International Airport is scheduled for completion in 2021 with capacity to handle 1 million passengers annually. The airport will feature a 2,500 meter length 45 meter wide runway to support take-off and landing operations of large commercial aircraft such as Airbus A320, Boeing 737-700 series and Boeing 757-200, taxiways and access roads. Landside infrastructure will include a 10,000 square meter international terminal and a 4,000 square meter domestic terminal.[18]

Project area:200
Level of Investment for the conflictive project305,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,830 households / landowners
Start of the conflict:19/03/2013
Company names or state enterprises:Nepali Oil Corporation (NOC) from Nepal - Demanded additional land allocation for airport site, for fuel storage
China CAMC Engineering (CAMC) from China - Awarded contract for construction of New Pokhara International Airport
Relevant government actors:Government of Nepal
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN)
Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA)
Pokhara-Leknath Metropolitan Municipality
Kaski District
International and Finance InstitutionsChina Export Import Bank (China Exim) from China - Approved a USD 216 million soft loan agreeemnt for project development in March 2016
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Airport Construction Public Concern Struggle Committee

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Affected landowners attempted to padlock project office [5]

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Oil spills, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
At least 6 people injured in clash between landowners and police [5],[6],[7]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime
Potential: Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsProbable displacement of paragliding businesses to make way for airport flightpaths [11],[12]

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Migration/displacement
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Phased land acquisition and a land survey for New Pokhara International Airport proceeded without consulting affected residents and many affected people rejected compensation that was offered. Residents facing displacement resorted to repeated protests, warnings that they would obstruct construction and an attempt to padlock the project office.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[2] Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of New Pokhara Regional International Airport, Submitted to: Government of Nepal Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Submitted by: Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), January 2015
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dr_Ramesh_Bhatt/publication/299485704_EIA_of_PIAP/links/56fb2d8b08aef6d10d9054a6/EIA-of-PIAP.pdf

[1] Locals refuse land for hub airport in Pokhara, Ghale Treks, 19 March 2013
http://ghalegroup.com/blog/locals-refuse-land-for-hub-airport-in-pokhara

[3] With new airport, Pokhara waits for takeoff, Nepali Times, 12 January 2018
http://archive.nepalitimes.com/article/nation/Pokhara-waits-for-take-off,4136

[4] Local protest govt move of acquiring additional land, Himalayan Times, 19 March 2013
http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=+Local+protest+govt+move+of+acquiring+additional+land++&NewsID=369932 (accessed 19 December 2014)

[5] 10 hurt in Pokhara airport construction dispute, Kathmandu Post, 18 December 2014
http://www.ekantipur.com/2014/12/18/national/10-hurt-in-pokhara-airport-construction-dispute/399203.html

[6] Six people injured in clashes over land compensation, Kathmandu Post, 19 December 2014
http://www.ekantipur.com/2014/12/19/business/six-people-injured-in-clashes-over-land-compensation/399224.html

[7] 8 injured as agitated land owners clash with Police, Myrepublica.com, 19 December 2014
http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=88804 (accessed 20 December 2014)

[8] Airport project offers substitute land, Kathmandu Post, 29 December 2014
http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2014-12-29/airport-project-offers-substitute-land.html

[9] DDC tells landowners to stop upping ante, Himalayan Times, 8 January 2015
http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=DDC+tells+landowners+to+stop+upping+ante&NewsID=440252 (accessed 17 January 2015)

[10] Dispute over land price ends, Ekantipur, 15 February 2015
http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2015-02-15/dispute-over-land-price-ends.html

[11] Paragliders fear being displaced by airport, Kathmandu Post, 21 June 2016
http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-06-21/paragliders-fear-being-displaced-by-airport.html

[12] Pokhara’s 4-decade-old dream within grasp, Kathmandu Post, 3 August 2018
http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2017-08-03/pokharas-4-decade-old-dream-within-grasp.html

[13] Construction work of Pokhara Airport intensified after PM’s Visit, tourismmail.com, 1 August 2018
http://www.tourismmail.com/construction-work-of-pokhara-airport-intensified-after-pms-visit/

[14] Additional land acquisition proposed for Pokhara Regional International Airport, aviationnepal.com, 10 August 2018
https://www.aviationnepal.com/additional-land-acquisition-proposed-for-pokhara-regional-international-airport/

[15] Locals protest against additional land acquisition at Pokhara International Airport, aviationnepal.com, 15 August 2018
https://www.aviationnepal.com/locals-protest-against-additional-land-acquisition-at-pokhara-international-airport/

[16] Pokhara airport’s foundation laying slated for April 14, Kathmandu Post, 1 April 2016
http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-04-01/pokhara-airports-foundation-laying-slated-for-april-14.html

[17] New Pokhara International Airport, Centre for Aviation (CAPA)
https://centreforaviation.com/data/profiles/newairports/new-pokhara-international-airport

[18] Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA), Airport Technology
https://www.airport-technology.com/projects/pokhara-regional-international-airport-pria/

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3724

Images

 

Pokhara International Airport construction

Construction of Pokhara International Airport underway in February 2018. Source: Kathmandu Post

Boundary of Pokhara International Airport

Source: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of New Pokhara Regional International Airport, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), 2015

Construction stalled in 2017

Construction of Pokhara International Airport stalled in 2017. Source: Kathmandu Post

Site of new airport fenced off in 2016

Construction of Pokhara International Airport began in June 2016. Source: Ekantipur

The new airport may displace paragliding activities

Pokhara is a popular paragliding destination, but may be affected by airspace regulations. Source: Kathmandu Post

Site of Pokhara International Airport, 2014

In December 2014 landowners protested over the low compensation rate offered by the government. Source: myrepublica.com