WB OKs $250m for road transport links across Hindukush
KABUL (Pajhwok): The World Bank has approved a $250 million grant for Afghanistan to improve road transport links across the Hindukush mountain range, including the rehabilitation of the Salang highway and tunnel.
The trans-Hindukush road connectivity project is designed to develop existing mountain crossings into dependable, all-season roads that will allow vital transport of passengers and goods throughout the year.
Currently, there are only two road crossings over the mountain range, with the Salang highway carrying most of the cross-Hindukush traffic, and an unpaved secondary crossing between Baghlan and Bamyan.
As part of the project, the bank said in a statement, civil works for paving the 152-km Baghlan-Bamyan road as well as the rehabilitation of the Salang highway and tunnel (87-km).
World Bank Country Director Bob Saum said: “Rehabilitating these roads to create reliable connections across the Hindukush mountain range is essential for Afghanistan’s economic prospects and for national integration.”
Harsh winters often forced closures of the Salang pass and so upgrading alternative roads at lower altitudes, such as from Baghlan to Bamyan, was important to secure traffic flows and economic activities throughout the year, he added.
Built in the 1960s and located between 2,500 and 3,400 meters altitude above sea level, the Salang pass is a critical road that connects Afghanistan’s northern provinces, in addition to Central Asia, with the rest of the country and beyond to South Asia.
The project is expected to have the following key characteristics:
- Developing and upgrading the Baghlan-Bamyan road to become a safe and dependable Hindukush crossing, which can be used as an alternative when the Salang highway is closed;
- Designing and carrying out repairs and maintenance on the Salang highway, which would involve (i) various types of repairs to the tunnel and snow galleries, which will require temporary partial and full closures, and (ii) the construction of a new heavy-duty concrete pavement for about 30 km in length;
- Civil works to involve local communities and contractors as much as possible.
The project will be implemented under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) over the next seven years. The ministry has appointed a high-level official to ensure close oversight of the project implementation and its coordination with stakeholders.
An inter-ministerial steering committee is being set up to ensure inter-sectorial coordination and to obtain specific support from other agencies in areas such as land acquisition and security.
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