Tora Shikh port construction to boost Afghan-Turkmen trade
QALA-I-NAW (Pajhwok): The Customs Department in northwestern Badghis province was established in 2006, although the province has no dry-port and the plan to develop Tora Shikh port on the border with Turkmenistan could not implemented.
Tora Shikh, a border region between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, is 45 kilometres from Qala-i-Naw, the provincial capital. There is no proper road connecting the strategic region with Qala-i-Naw.
Customs Officer Mohammad Hanif Mustawar said the department had four employees and it was unable to generate revenue since there was no port in the province.
According to Mustawar, the customs department collected 3.5 million afghanis revenue in 2011 from non-customs-paid vehicles which entered Afghanistan through different ports.
He recalled the construction of Tora Shikh port was first time suggested in 1986 and since then the suggestion could not be practically materialised.
According to him, the port’s construction would accelerate economic activities and the province would earn substantial profit annually.
Currently export and import activities take place at Tor Ghondi dry port between Herat province and Turkmenistan. The government annually earns hundreds millions of afghanis from trade activities through the vital port.
Haji Abdul Aziz, a resident of the locality, demanded the government take immediate steps for construction of Tora Shikh port. He added some local elders and the customs department head visited the border and Turkmen officials agreed to open the port.
About militant activities, he hoped insurgents would not harm the project if launched. He believed the port would help revive trade and economic activities in the province and the big beneficiary would be the government.
According to Aziz, government officials had made commitment in the past to construct the port, but people had lost their trust in them and would not believe them anymore.
In addition, he complained rehabilitation work on electricity supply lines from Turkmenistan had been stopped in Muqur district over the past two years.Aziz said officials had earlier approved electricity import from the neighboring country to the province.
He said the region was under insurgents control but the rebels had assured tribal elders that they would pose no threat to the project.
Haji Sarfaraz, a tribal elder from the provincial capital, also stressed the need for the construction of Tora Shikh port. He said high ranking officials, including the president, during their visits to the province had pledged execution of major projects including the dry port, ring road and electricity projects.
He said they were not sure if the government would pay attention to major development projects in the backward province despite frequent calls on the central government.
The construction of the 237 kilometres ring road kicked off in Badghis back in 2012. The then public works minister had said the construction work would be completed in three years.
But since a year, work on the key project had been stalled and only 35 kilometres portion of the road has been graveled. The project would cost $465 million provided by the World Bank (WB).
The contract for rehabilitation of electricity lines from Turkmenistan was inked between the Ministry of Water and Energy and an Iranian company in 2011. The $15 million project was expected to be completed in 18 months but no progress could be achieved on the project since one year.
According to officials, as many as 50,000 people in 7,000 families would benefit from the project.
Sharafuddin Majidi, the chief of staff at the governor’s house, said the provincial government had taken steps to complete these projects.
He said work on the construction of Tora Shikh port would be launched next year when work on the ring road and electricity lines would also begin.
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