Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation today formed a technical working group to discuss on airspace issues and also create a favourable condition to open new cross-border air routes between Nepal and India.
The group – led by deputy director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) – also includes senior officials of the ministry. The group will finalise Nepal’s agenda for opening more direct and shorter flight routes between the two neighbouring countries. It will submit its report to the ministry, which will forward it to the cabinet for the approval.
Nepal has subsequently proposed holding the first round of meetings with India in September and the second round in October, said joint secretary of Aviation Industry Management Division at the ministry Suresh Acharya.
The group will also discuss opening of the Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace – Kathmandu-Bagdogra-Guwahati-Silchar-Imphal-Kunming – that is a lucrative route for Nepal.
Although, the Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace has not been clearly indicated in the joint communiqué issued at the end of the Indian premier Narendra Modi on August 4, it has mandated the authorities in the two countries to study and formalise the agenda.
China has already agreed to develop trans-Himalayan airspace, which is shorter, safer, more economical and more efficient for flights between Europe-Middle East and Oriental Asia.
The planned routes will reduce congestion of westbound traffic flows across the Bay of Bengal. The implementation of these routes will be possible only with the cooperation of countries including India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The International Air Transport Association has kept Himalaya 2 as a future requirement. The proposed Himalaya 2 airspace reduces air travel distance by more than 100 nautical miles – around 20 minutes of flight time – and will significantly reduce CO2 emissions caused by international airlines. Nepal has been lobbying to have the airspace implemented for more than a decade as it will also benefit Nepal in terms of revenue as and when the international airlines fly from its airspace.
Meanwhile, Nepal had also requested India to allow three more air entry points at Janakpur, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj. But the proposal was gathering dust for long.
The prime ministers of both the countries have directed the authorities to meet within six months to resolve the issue.
The joint communiqué also said that the cross-border direct routes would facilitate flights from regional airports in Pokhara and Bhairahawa to India.
“It will save time and money for air travellers besides improving air connectivity between the two countries,” it added. Currently, the air route connects Kathmandu and New Delhi, and Kathmandu and Mumbai only.
The Simara route is the only route for aircraft flying into Nepal, at present. It is used by almost all the airlines and has been suffering from air traffic congestion.
However, two other entry points – Kakkarbhitta and Nonim – have been specially allowed for aircrafts coming from Bhutan and China, respectively.
But Nepal offers more than six exit points – Bhairahawa, Biratnagar, Kakkarbhitta, Nepalgunj, Janakpur and Dhangadhi – for aircraft.