China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group has bagged the contract to upgrade Gautam Buddha Airport in Bhairahawa into a regional international airport.
The company emerged as the lowest bidder during the final review of the financial documents okayed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the major financer of the project. Northwest had quoted a price tag of Rs 5.50 billion, which is Rs 897.35 million less than the price quoted by the second lowest bidder.
The aggregate cost of the project as set by its executing agency the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) is Rs 6.30 billion. The planned airport will have a 3,000-metre runway and have a capacity to serve 760,000 passengers annually after the completion of its first phase.
The scope of works involves the construction of a new runway, exit and parallel taxiways with flexible pavements, new international aircraft parking apron with rigid pavements, rehabilitation of the existing runway for conversion into parallel taxiway, drainage system parallel to the runway, taxiway and diversion of the Ghaghara Khola and airport boundary, among others.
China Harbour Engineering Company and a Nepali-Spanish joint venture Sanjose-Kalika were the second and third lowest bidders, quoting Rs 6.40 billion and Rs 6.68 billion respectively.
Likewise, the other short listed firms are China Overseas Engineering Group, China’s Sinohydro Corporation and Spain’s Isolux-Corsan which had quoted Rs 6.77 billion, Rs 7.20 billion and Rs 7.21 billion respectively.
Of the seven firms, the financial bid submitted by China Volant Industry was rejected. On February 26, Caan had received seven confirmed bids from among the 37 firms that obtained bid documents.
“We have notified the lowest bidder China’s Northwest to be present within 28 days with a bank guarantee to sign a project contract agreement,” said Murari Bhandari, chief of the project.
“There will be negotiations with the company regarding its work schedule and other technical issues before signing the project contract,” he said, adding that after receiving the “commitment of works” for the company, Caan would give the go-ahead to begin the construction.
Considering the contract agreement and the company’s mobilization period, the construction work is likely to begin by the end of December.
“We have targeted to bring the airport into operation by early 2018,” Bhandari said.
The airport in Bhairahawa which is being upgraded into a regional international airport is the gateway to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. Of the total project cost, ADB will provide $ 58.50 million ($ 42.75 in loans and $ 15.75 million in grants), the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) will give $ 15 million loan and Caan will bear the rest as counterpart funding.
In the second phase which will commence after 10 years, the airport is projected to handle up to 2 million passengers.
After the airport is complete, it will be able to handle up to 6 million passengers annually. The airport will have six international parking bays.
The airport has been touted as one of the most viable projects due to its potential to draw a large number of Buddhist pilgrims to Lumbini.
It will also serve as an alternative to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) which is under strain due to heavy traffic.