Finance Ministry signs grant of $250 mln with World Bank to improve roads across Hindukush
By Zabihullah Moosakhail - Sat Nov 14 2015, 7:09 pm
Minister of Finance Eklil Ahmad Hakimi on Saturday signed a grant of $250 million with World Bank to improve transport links across the Hindukush mountain range, including the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel.
World Bank is supporting the new project – the Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project – through its International Development Association (IDA) fund which is for the poorest countries.
The project will develop the existing mountain crossings into dependable, all-season roads that will allow the movement of vital passenger traffic and goods across the Hindukush mountain range throughout the year.
There are currently only two road crossings over the mountain range, with the Salang highway carrying most of the cross-Hindukush traffic. The other road is unpaved secondary crossing between Baghlan and Bamiyan.
The project will carry out civil works for the upgrading the unpaved Baghlan-Bamiyan road (152 km) to a paved road, as well as rehabilitate the Salang road and tunnel (87 km).
The Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project will be implemented over the next seven years under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works (MPW).
MPW has appointed a high ranking official to ensure close oversight of project implementation and its coordination with stakeholders.
Given the wider impact of this project on Afghanistan as a whole, an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee is being set up to ensure inter-sectoral coordination and to obtain specific support from other agencies in areas such as land acquisition and security. The Committee will be chaired by senior staff from the Presidential office and will include high-level representatives from various ministries and agencies as needed.
“The preparation phase of this project has shown that our ministry is not only capable of designing such an important project, but also has the capacity to implement it effectively,” said Minister of Public Works Mahmoud Baligh. “As we start implementation, our focus remains to ensure that the trans-Hindukush route is always open for traffic, even while we build the Bamyan to Baghlan road and rehabilitate the Salang pass.”
“The Hindukush mountain range’s geographic location as a barrier between Afghanistan’s southern and northern parts makes it crucial to have an all-weather road across its high passes,” said Bob Saum, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “We hope the new project will help to economically empower the people of Afghanistan and boost trade and economic activity both within Afghanistan and beyond. Connecting villages to cities and provinces to each other is vital for generating jobs and getting the economy moving, and is therefore a key element in supporting the government’s poverty alleviation efforts.”
Ministry of Finance says this project is crucial for economic development of Afghanistan and that its procurement process would be implemented with transparency and accountability.
Being a mountainous country, more than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s freight and almost 85 percent of intercity passenger traffic are carried by road. And, while existing highways provide international links to Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, the country suffers from significant gaps in terms of connectivity and accessibility. Nearly 63 percent of the population lives more than two kilometers away from an all-season road. These gaps in transport infrastructure result in relative isolation of parts of the country and negatively affect regional and internal integration and trade.
Built in the 1960s, and located between 2,500 and 3,400 meters above sea level, the Salang pass is a critical road that connects Afghanistan’s northern provinces and the Central Asian countries with the rest of the country and beyond to the countries of South Asia.