Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Monday, May 16, inaugurated the country’s second international airport built under the assistance of Asian Development Bank that will help connect Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and a major pilgrimage destination, to Buddhist circuits in South Asia as well as to the rest of the world.
The USD 76 million Gautam Buddha International Airport was inaugurated on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lumbini on the occasion of Buddha Purnima and also held comprehensive talks with his Nepalese counterpart Deuba to expand bilateral cooperation in multiple areas, including in hydropower, development and connectivity between the two neighbouring countries.
Prime Minister Modi and his entourage arrived in Lumbini on a special Indian Air Force helicopter from Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. The IAF helicopter landed at the helipad constructed near the International Buddhist Prayer Centre and Auditorium in Lumbini.
The new airport in Bhairahawa, 19 kilometers from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lumbini, is funded by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank and OPEC Fund for International Development but built by China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group.
The opening was marked by a successful landing of an international commercial flight, according to a press release issued by ADB Nepal office.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Prime Minister Deuba said the opening of the airport is an historic day in Nepal’s aviation and tourism sectors and will contribute to the country’s overall development and prosperity in the long run.
Speaking on the occasion, ADB Country Director for Nepal Arnaud Cauchois congratulated the Government of Nepal on the completion and opening of the airport despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Cauchois said the airport will form a cornerstone of the country’s overall development by facilitating tourism, expanding trade and economic activities, generating local employment opportunities, and improving international air transport access to migrant workers and people living in the nearby provinces.
The new airport facility, which can accommodate wide-body airplanes, features a 15,169-square-metres terminal building and a new runway of 3,000 metres. Besides, an advanced Instrument Landing System will be used in GBIA, a first for Nepal, to allow aircraft landing even in reduced visibility.