During the question-hour session of National Assembly on 3rd December, Gelephu constituency MP Gopal Mongar said that the domestic flights between Paro-Yonphula and Paro-Bumthang sectors operated for a few months and then got suspended after that. A successful test flight was also conducted on the Paro-Gelephu sector.
He questioned the Minister for Information and Communications (MoIC) on the status of the domestic air services and when it would become operational again.
MoIC Minister DN Dhungyel said, “Domestic flights were suspended mainly because of renovation works.” Regarding the Batpalathang domestic airport in Bumthang it is under maintenance and the air service is still operational for flight services.
He said that the overall domestic airport renovation budget is USD 6.9mn, which is grant from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He said that maintenance budget is huge and the tendering was done according to the ADB’s criteria.
He informed that there were four contractors willing to work for Yonphula domestic airport but all contractors were not eligible for the project as they have not fulfilled the criteria as required by the ADB.
He said that the tender for the project had been refloated last month as certain international standard had to be fulfilled by the bidders. He said that renovation work for Yonphula airport will begin from January next year as Yongphula domestic airport needs major renovation work.
The Minister informed the house that Yonphula domestic airport could be operational by the end of 2016 and Gelephu airport would be operational by January 2015 and Batpalathang airport would be completed by March 2015.
The Minister highlighted the expenditure incurred for three domestic airports. He said that Yongphula needs a lot of maintenance will get USD 3.9 mn, Batpalathang domestic airport in Bumthang will get Nu 51. 9mn and there is Nu 9.8 mn for Gelephu domestic airport. He said that an air tariff control tower and terminal building will be completed by 2015 for the Gelephu airport.
Wamrong MP Karma Tenzin said that as the construction of domestic airport needs huge investments and as maintenance will be done through the ADB grant it would be important to do the work properly otherwise it might affect grants for the future.
He asked the minister how the government is planning to ensure quality domestic airports. In response the Minister said that regarding quality, the ministry got its experience from the past as the domestic airport had no quality and within 6 months the airport went out of use.
He said that the ministry will put an engineer at the site of the domestic airport to improve the quality of construction.