The airport’s runway requires widening to meet international standards

Communication: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that if the runway at Paro international airport has to be widened, it should be done now rather than later.

Lyonchoen said this in response to the Department of Air Transport (DAT) deferring its plan to widen the runway to the next Plan, during the information and communication ministry’s mid-term review, last month.

The department attributed challenges in acquiring private land in the southern area of the airport, towards Bondey.

DAT director Karma Wangchuk said that there is a need to widen the run to 45m to conform with international requirements for the Airbus A319 jet.

The current runway is 30m wide with a shoulder of five metres on each side, making its overall width 40m. However, the shoulders are not for normal use by aircraft and are considered more of a buffer between the runway and unpaved area.

Karma Wangchuk said that there is no budget available to widen the runway. He added that there are currently other areas that require funding more urgently.

The director pointed out that Airbus aircraft, including the larger A320 at one point of time, have been operating to Paro airport since 2004 and therefore the airport can manage with the current runway until funds are acquired.

Once budget is available, Karma Wangchuk said that the runway will be widened.

However, this will require private land being acquired by the airport, especially towards the south of the airport towards Bondey.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said the issue needs to be considered carefully because if the widening work is suspended due to land acquisition problems, the government may not be able to acquire the land in the future.

Lyonchoen pointed out that if the land cannot be acquired in the present Plan, it would not be possible in the next Plan. He added that the department should pursue widening the runway if it is required.

He said the department should obtain necessary approvals from concerned agencies and compensate landowners.

Lyonchoen also said that in the future, with air traffic expected to increase, residents living close to the airport will suffer from noise pollution. Lyonchoen added that landowners would not be able to get good prices for their land then. He also said that if it is possible the landowners should be encouraged to go for land substitutes.

Lyonchoen informed the department to inform him immediately if the required land cannot be acquired. He also asked the department to write a proposal to the Cabinet on the issue.

Gyalsten K Dorji