Balance between Nature and Development : Nepal Airport

November 29, 2021, 10:38 am IST

Nepal is a landlocked country where the major means of international connectivity is either through Roadway or Airway. As for travel time, Roadway takes a considerable time compared to Airway. Despite being a major tourist attraction nation, Nepal has got only one international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). 

Nijgadh International Airport is a proposed airport development project in southeastern Nepal designed to relieve expected capacity restraints at Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu. The proposed airport site lies 150kms from Kathmandu by road. It is expected that the airport will feature two parallel runways and will be capable of handling 15 million passengers annually. 

For the past few years, the government has been constructing international airports in Pokhara and Bhairahawa whereas another major project has been proposed. The proposal for the Nijgadh International Airport, however, has come under a controversy owing to environmental costs. 

Due to various constraints, none of these airports among the TIA, the GBIA, and the PRIA, can qualify as a full-fledged international airport. To welcome the new large aircraft (NLA) category 4F aircraft such as Boeing 747 300 series, Airbus a380, Nepal needs an airport that complies with all the international standards.

Why Nijgadh

It is situated between two rivers ~10 km apart on plain land decreasing the cost of cut and/or fill during construction. The cost of transportation of construction materials from Birgunj is minimal. It is also located near major cities such as Biratnagar and Chitwan. There are three air-entry points from India, from Janakpur, Biratnagar, and Bhairawa, which are all viable from Nijgadh. The selection of the site is justified from various aspects.

The development of a full-fledged airport would help promote Nepal as not only a tourist destination but also a transit hub in South Asia. It would also foster economic development and boost Nepal’s connectivity with the rest of the world. The team at creative group along with Ar. Gurpreet Shah carried out the site study and feasibility reports and then came up with a lucrative site plan. 

Despite its necessity, this project is a nightmare for the surrounding environment. Since Creative Group is environmentally conscious and the founder, Prof Charanjit Singh Shah, is an avid nature lover, the master plan was developed in a way so as have the least impact on the environment. It is true that there is only a fine line between development and destruction. 

In our proposal for the Nijgadh International Airport we intend to combine traditional styles and textures with modern aesthetics and comforts. This approach conserves and respects the architectural heritage of Nepal, while also contributing to a resilient built environment. 

There are multiple typologies of buildings present in Nepal. Temples, commercial, mixed use, clubbed with parks, water bodies and other open spaces   What binds them together is the platform in the center. It acts as a breathing space; it allows the people to perform different activities and act as an excellent rejuvenating space for the public. The spaces are surrounded by homes on other sides and a visual connection is maintained with the mountains. These are also used for public gatherings and celebrations besides just being used as a water structure. These activities are visible to people from their houses which create a positive environment for the residents. 

An attempt was made to create a relationship between the built and open spaces using design principles used in traditional architecture of Nepal. Placement of primary and secondary functions intend to show the  understanding of visual and functional principles related to social needs developed during the process of design. 

The airport is a need of the hour and the team at creative group has worked around the existing conditions to achieve an optimum design. 

 Fact File

Name of Project, location: Nijgadh International Airport, Nepal

Architectural Firm: Creative Group, Prof. Charanjit Shah, Ar. Gurpreet Shah, Ar. Puneet Bhardwaj