Chhimi Dema

The requirement for a runway to fly the smallest aircraft in the country (ATR42-600) is 1,200 meters, and Pongchula in Mongar can support a runway of only 920 metres, according to the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) Minister, Karma Donnen Wangdi.

At the National Assembly’s question hour session yesterday, he said that the MoIC’s technical working group composed of officials from the National Land Commission (NLC), Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA), and Department of Air Transport (DoAT) is conducting a technical feasibility study.

MP Karma Lhamo, during the by-election in May, pledged to accelerate development of the Pongchula international airport.

“The technical feasibility report hasn’t been submitted to the ministry yet. Once the ministry gets the report, we will study it for any further developments,” Lyonpo said.

Various feasibility studies have been carried out for the establishment of an airport at Pongchula.

In 2018, BCAA initiated a preliminary feasibility study at Pongchula. In May 2019, the DoAT wrote to the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) to study the weather conditions in the area.

In May of this year, the NCHM’s equipment to study the weather conditions of the area for flights was installed. The data collection is underway.

Lyonpo informed the House that the ministry is exploring places for construction of airports.

Bomdeling-Jamkhar MP Dupthob asked the minister about the third international internet gateway.

The two internet gateways today are from India through Phuentsholing and Gelephu.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said: “The third international internet gateway would connect Gelephu-Bongaigaon-Agartala in India to Cumilla-Kuakata in Bangladesh to Singapore.”

He said that there are two costs for Bhutan while connecting the third internet gateway, connecting Bangladesh to Singapore and connecting Bangladesh to Bhutan.

The two telecom operators, Bhutan Telecom and Tashi InfoComm Limited, are negotiating the cost of the third international internet gateway with India, he added.

During the Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh in March, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina decided to provide Bhutan internet bandwidth at “a friendly rate” as a gesture of goodwill and friendship.

Lyonpo said that this month when the Minister of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology of Bangladesh and Bhutanese Embassy in Bangladesh met, the cost of the third internet gateway was discussed.

“The ministry was informed that Bangladesh would send an official letter for the internet gateway from which MoIC, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will discuss the final internet gateway cost with India,” he said.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk