– Birat Anupam
Locals of Morang and Sunsari have demanded speedy compensation for their acquired lands for the Biratnagar airport expansion project. Three hundred and fifty households of Biratnagar Metropolitan Ward Number 4 and adjoining areas of Barju Rural Municipality said their lands are banned for sales since 6 April 2021. On 6 April, Nepal Government issued a notice on Gorakhapatra Daily prohibiting sales of the lands within the proposed airport expansion periphery. Nepal Government has floated a project to expand the airport area from the existing 122 Bighas to 248.46 Bighas by acquiring 126.46 Bighas of lands from locals.
”There are 1400 Kittitas of our land is acquired by the Nepal Government and we were assured to be compensated by Oli Government itself”, complained Bedraj Poudel, the chair of the struggle committee, ”Still, we are waiting for the compensation,” Poudel said owing to lengthy process the locals are troubled on economic activities. ”Neither we get compensation nor we can sell our lands”, complained Poudel.
The government is mulling to construct a 2500-meter-long runway for domestic and international flights in the days ahead. In order to enlarge the airport area, 7.83 Bighas in the east, 69.14 Bighas in the west, 35.81 Bighas in the north, and 8.87 Bighas, as well as 3.70 Bighas for roadways, is acquired for the project. Meanwhile, Utsab Kharel, the Chief of Civil Aviation Authority Biratnagar Airport, said he could not pay the compensation, as there is no budget for the purpose. ”There are problems for lengthy compensation process, therefore, it’s open for Amsabanda (property transfer to the family members),” said Kharel.
Biratnagar airport is the priority of both provincial and federal governments to upgrade it to the international status. Traders and locals are long demanding an international flight. Interestingly, in the Panchayat era, there would be a direct flight to Patna of India. According to the officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, Biratnagar airport is the third busiest airport after Kathmandu and Pokhara.