By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, Nov. 22: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US$150 million (Rs. 17.77 billion as per Friday’s exchange rate) concessional loan to improve the capacity of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA). The TIA in Kathmandu is the country’s only international airport and a major hub for domestic air transport. The GBIA in Lumbini will serve as an alternate international air transport facility for Nepal. As it is nearby Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha and a major pilgrimage as well as tourist destination, and Nepal-India border Belahiya in Bhairahawa, it would boost the tourism activities in the region. Tourism is a major source of economic activity in Nepal. In 2019, tourism generated an estimated $2.05 billion, which accounted for 6.7% of gross domestic product (GDP). “ADB’s support will improve TIA’s safety, capacity, and operational efficiency. In addition, the new GBA international terminal will play a key role in boosting regional tourism in and around Lumbini,” said ADB Senior Transport Specialist for South Asia Kai Wei Yeo. The project will help revive the country’s tourism industry and address the long-term negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the ADB in its statement on Friday. The loan will support the construction of a parallel taxiway extension and hangar aprons at TIA, and a new international terminal building at GBA to increase capacity. According to the multilateral donor, another key component of the project is minimising climate change impacts. This will be carried out by using clean energy materials, such as the solar panels and energy-efficient lighting to be installed at the new GBIA terminal building. Erstwhile Finance Minister Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada had allocated Rs. 19.42 billion for airport construction and upgrading. He had informed that the government had managed the budget for the GBIA. The GBIA is in the final phase of construction and is expected to come into operation by the end of the current fiscal year 2020/21.