The Government of Nepal has opened the country’s second international airport, called Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA).

Inaugurated by Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, the airport project is backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Located 19km from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lumbini, which is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the new airport has a 15,169m² terminal building and new runway of 3,000m.

It has been designed and built to accommodate wide-body aircraft

The airport will also have an advanced instrument landing system, which will allow aircraft to land even in reduced visibility.

ADB Nepal country director Arnaud Cauchois said: “The airport will help connect Lumbini – a major tourist and pilgrimage destination – to Buddhist circuits in South Asia, as well as to the rest of the world.

“On a broader context, the airport will form a cornerstone of the country’s overall development by facilitating tourism, expanding trade and economic activities, generating local employment opportunities, and improving international air transport access to migrant workers and people living in the nearby provinces.”

ADB supported the Government of Nepal in upgrading and building GBIA through the South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project.

The project entailed an investment of $76.1m, of which ADB provided $37m in loans and grants while the OPEC Fund for International Development offered $11m in loan. The rest was funded by the Government of Nepal.

Nepal Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation minister Prem Bahadur Ale said: “The opening of the airport is a moment of pride for the country. As Nepal’s second international airport, the GBIA will serve as alternate for Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, and airlines will no longer have to divert to other countries in the event of bad weather or other technical issues.”