Nepal Probes China-Funded Pokhara Airport Amid Criticism

Nepal’s USD 216 million international airport in Pokhara, constructed with loans from China, was inaugurated in January….reports Asian Lite News

Following The New York Times’ expose on the construction quality and cost irregularities at the Pokhara airport financed by Chinese state-owned firms, Nepal’s anti-corruption agency has initiated an inquiry into the project.

Nepal’s USD 216 million international airport in Pokhara, constructed with loans from China, was inaugurated in January.

However, concerns have emerged as the airport is yet to attract regular international flights, casting doubts on its revenue generation to repay the Chinese loans the New York Times reported.

As per The New York Times, the project, managed by China comprehensive annual maintenance contract (CAMC) Engineering, a subsidiary of Sinomach, has faced criticism, with accusations of inflated costs and substandard construction that compromised the airport’s quality.

Nepali officials have sought a loan-to-grant conversion from Beijing to alleviate the financial strain, but China has not acceded to the request.

Bhola Dahal, a spokesman for Nepal’s anti-corruption agency, confirmed an ongoing investigation into the airport, acknowledging multiple complaints, totalling over 20, concerning construction quality, as per an article by The New York Times.

The Pokhara airport debacle adds to the international scrutiny of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has faced backlash due to expensive, low-quality construction, and growing debt burdens for borrowing nations.

Despite Nepal’s aspiration to develop a world-class airport, the investigation now reflects the challenges and complexities of funding, quality, and diplomatic implications with neighbouring countries, including India.

As the inquiry progresses, engineers familiar with the project have raised concerns about compromised construction quality, emphasizing flaws in the infrastructure that question its solidity.

While China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed unawareness of the investigation, it reaffirmed the necessity for its firms to adhere to local laws and quality standards in their overseas operations.

The Pokhara airport’s entanglement in this controversy echoes a growing trend among countries indebted to China, impacting diplomacy, regional influence, and infrastructure development. (ANI)

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