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Editorial: Sky-high folly

Editorial: Sky-high folly

Nepal’s recent improvement in the global civil-aviation regulator ICAO’s audit score could be wasted. It would have been the perfect opportunity to lobby with the European Commission to lift the ban on Nepali airlines from European skies. But the country’s entreaties on that score are likely to be scorned. A pair of bills in the federal parliament to split the regulatory and service-providing arms of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) have been cunningly shelved. The commission has repeatedly clarified that European skies will remain closed to Nepali fliers until the split: the overlapping of CAAN’s regulatory and operational duties creates conflict of interest, adding to the risk of accidents.  

Just when the bills were to be put up for a vote in the federal lower house on March 2, Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Prem Ale had asked the parliament secretariat to hold them back. He had done so under the pressure of the CAAN top brass (and their political masters) who feared a loss in their clout from the authority’s split. So even as the country’s economy is nearing a point of crisis, one measure that could immediately help revive it was shelved: the European Commission’s ban discourages European tourists from visiting Nepal with its ‘unsafe skies’.  

Nor is this just a question of our economy’s health. So long as CAAN remains intact, even Nepali air passengers will feel unsafe. The interests of a handful of people have been allowed to endanger common lives. Owing to continuous obstruction from the main opposition, the 10th parliamentary session has been prorogued. The two bills are now unlikely to be discussed until the election of a new parliament later this year. 

Both the ministry of tourism as well as CAAN have been keen to highlight the ICAO’s recent favorable ratings of Nepal. But they surely know that the ban will stay until the central issue of the break-up of CAAN is completed. Instead of waiting for international organizations to help Nepal, our politicians need to first show that they can ensure the safety of their own brethren.