Congestion in the Skies: Mobility, Airspace, and New Routes Across the Himalayas

Join us for a buffet style lunch from 12.15 in TSU.

Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (IATA code: KTM) is currently the only international airport in all of Nepal. Due to a significant growth in air traffic over the past 5-10 years – a direct result of increased labour migration to the Gulf States, an increase in tourism after the 2015 earthquake, and poor road conditions elsewhere in the country – KTM is becoming severely congested while its infrastructure is past its due date. What is to be done with these traffic jams in the sky? How are they to be rearranged, by whom, and to what effect? Using three brief examples – 1. Nepali pilots’ and crew experiences of holding patterns and airspace restrictions, 2. A proposed air route called Himalaya-2 that never got off the ground (so to speak), and 3. Air routes proposed by a joint Sino-Nepal airline venture – this paper will show how mobility through the air is both dependent upon and driven by geopolitics ‘on the ground’ (Williams 2013: 226). This paper argues that a volumetric approach – paying attention to the interconnection of both land and air spaces – is vital in order to better understand contemporary changes in mobility, geopolitics, and climate in and across the Himalayas.