Kathmandu, Jan 1 (PTI): Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on Sunday inaugurated a regional international airport built with the Chinese assistance in western Nepal’s tourist hub of Pokhara.
Prime Minister ‘Prachanda’ unveiled a plaque marking the official inauguration of the Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA). Deputy Prime and Finance minister Bishnu Paudel and other top leaders were also present on the occasion.
The international flights are expected to take off after the second week of February.
The PRIA, a flagship project of Nepal-China Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation, was constructed with Chinese loan assistance.
The Government had signed a USD 215.96 million soft loan agreement with China in March 2016 for the construction of the new airport in the lake city.
Speaking on the occasion, Prachanda said that aerial connectivity is the most effective means of connectivity for a landlocked country like Nepal.
“As the country’s third international airport, the airport has started operating in Pokhara from today,” he said. “With the opening of this airport, Pokhara’s relationship with the international region has been established.”
The Prime Minister also requested the Chinese Government to facilitate the opening of border crossings with China and to assist in the construction of railway services and other projects.
“I became the Prime Minister after being elected from Gandaki Province, the people here have given me the opportunity to serve as the Prime Minister for a third time, I want to thank them for this,” he said.
He said that the Government under his leadership will work with the basic mantra of social justice, good governance and prosperity of the people.
“Earlier, I played a leading role for the establishment of a democratic republic, now I will move the country forward by promoting economic development, prosperity and good governance,” he said.
Chinese Embassy Charge de Affaires Wang Xin said that the airport is designed and built as per Chinese standards, which reflects the high quality of Chinese engineering, and symbolises the national honour of Nepal.
“Pokhara International Airport has been highly valued by the leaders of China and Nepal. The new airport will become a vivid practice and a powerful witness of working together to achieve common development and prosperity,” the Chinese envoy said.
He said that the arrival of Chinese tourists would greatly contribute to Nepal’s tourism sector as the country unveils ‘Tourism Decade 2023-2033.’
“Under the guidance of the two heads of state, we will jointly build the trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, and let the BRI cooperation bear fruitful results,” he said.
“As the two-way trade at the Kerung/Rasuwagadhi border port resumed export of Nepali products to China had started again. The two-way trade at the Pulan/Yari port will be reopened in early 2023,” he said, adding “more Nepali products will be exported to China.”
“The expert team for the feasibility study & survey of China-Nepal Cross-Border Railway has recently arrived in Nepal, marking an important step in the construction of this ‘sky road’. Nepal’s dream from a ‘land-locked country’ to a ‘land-linked country’ will finally come true,” he added.
Meanwhile, Gandaki Province chief minister Krishna Chandra Pokharel urged the Chinese Government to transform the loan it provided for the Pokhara airport construction project into grants.
“I urge the Government of China through the Chinese Embassy here to convert 75 per cent of the total loan into grants,” he said.
The airport should serve passengers in South Asia in the first phase and then the passengers in Western countries in the second phase, he said.
Pokharel expressed hopes that the arrival of tourists in the town would increase significantly with the operation of the international airport.