The 18th Saarc Summit has exposed Kathmandu ’s limitations in handling VVIP visits. A number of international flights will operate at night from Tuesday to Friday while all domestic carriers have been asked to park most of their aircraft outside Kathmandu .
In order to ease traffic congestion and aid smooth VVIP movement, vehicles have been rationed on the basis of their odd and even registration numbers for five days.
The recent upgradation of roads in the Capital has been widely welcomed but there are concerns whether city officials will be able to protect the infrastructure, as Nepal will be hosting international summits such as Bimstec and the possible visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015.
“It’s a beginning. As city beautification and infrastructure development can spur economic growth and leave a lasting impression on visitors and residents, the government will continue the momentum,” said Yogeshwar Krishna Parajuli, development commissioner at the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority.
“It may appear Saarc-focused, but it’s part of a long-term plan that includes more areas,” said Parajuli. The authority plans to develop 10 ecological parks in Kathmandu Valley.
As the country’s sole international airport has been unable to meet the growing demand, the extensive use of private jets by summit delegates tested its limits.
Experts say the TIA has reached its saturation point and any further delay in building another full-fledged international airport would worsen the situation in the near future at the time when Nepal’s tourism is expected to get a boost in pilgrimage and adventure segments.
November is the peak tourism season with around 270 domestic flights and about 80 international flights daily.
Even though airport managers and airline operators are struggling to ensure smooth movement, the business at the peak season has already been hit by infrastructure bottlenecks particularly the parking space crunch at the TIA.
“Travellers will be greatly affected by the rescheduling of outbound flights from Kathmandu after midnight,” said an airlines official. Domestic operators have been told to conduct mountain flights and flights to Lukla from 5am to 9am.
“Only 15 percent of the scheduled flights will operate in the domestic sector on Tuesday,” said Ghanashyam Acharya, spokesman for the Airlines Operators Association of Nepal. November 27 will be the busiest day at the airport and almost all domestic and international operations are likely to be shelved. According to the Notice to Airmen, no flights would be conducted 15 minutes before and after a VIP flight. The TIA notified that there would be limited parking available in the international apron so night stop facilities are not available for international flights. The TIA handled 92,695 take-offs and landings last year, 75 percent of them for domestic airlines. Foreign and domestic carriers flew 4.68 million passengers, against 1.54 million by domestic airlines.