By Siraj Khan Nepalgunj, Oct. 11: According to the Nepalgunj Civil Aviation Office (CAO), work on expansion of Nepalgunj Airport has started gathering momentum again. Prem Nath Thakur, chief of CAO, attributed the delay to the lockdown imposed by the government to tame the COVID-19 pandemic. Stating the completion of the plane parking space during the lockdown, Thakur said that the runway expansion, terminal building construction and land acquisition had gathered pace. A 20-year master plan has proposed to upgrade the airport to international standard in four phases. “The first and second phases are currently being implemented,” said Thakur, adding that runway expansion and terminal buildings will be started shortly, for which the concerned ministry has been notified about land acquisition. The total budget for the first-two phases is around Rs. 3.5 billion. As per the master plan, the runway will be extended from 1,524 metres (3C category) to 2,445 metres (4C category). An additional 100 bighas land will be purchased and added to the airport’s current area of 166 bighas. Only then can the airport be expanded to meet the international criteria, the CAO said. Demand for Nepalgunj-Delhi flights The industrialists and businessmen of Banke are also demanding for the swift completion of the expansion work and start of direct flights from Nepalgunj to Delhi. Member of the executive committee of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Krishna Prasad Shrestha said that the Nepalgunj-Delhi flight would prove to be a cornerstone for tourism and economic development of western Nepal. Stressing on the need for the direct-flights, Shrestha said that the governments of both Nepal and India were positive on the matter. Similarly, Mayor of Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolitan City Dhawal Shumsher Rana believed that direct flights to the Indian capital would greatly benefit not just Nepalgunj but also the entire region. “So, we have been repeatedly calling for it,” he said.