World Bank offers 250 mln USD to develop key Afghan route

The World Bank has provided a grant of 250 million U.S. dollars to Afghan government to help improve road transport links along a main highway linking the capital of Kabul to the northern provinces, said a statement issued by the bank.


The grant was approved to help support the Afghan government's efforts to improve road transport links across the Hindukush mountain range, including the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel, the statement said.


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 Asian countries, with the rest of the country and beyond to South Asian countries, according to the statement.


"Rehabilitating these roads to create reliable connections across the Hindukush mountain range is essential for Afghanistan's economic prospects and for national integration," World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan Bob Saum was quoted in the statement as saying.


The Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project will develop existing mountain crossings into dependable, all-season roads that will allow vital transport of passengers and goods to cross the Hindukush mountain range throughout the year, according to the statement.


"There are currently 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 Bamiyan (provinces). The project will carry out civil works for the upgrading of the Baghlan to Bamiyan road (152 km) to a paved road as well as the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel (87 km)," the statement said.


"Harsh winters often force closures of the Salang pass and so upgrading alternative roads at lower altitudes, such as from Baghlan to Bamiyan, is important to secure traffic flows and economic activities throughout the year." Saum noted


The Central Asian country has suffered from significant transport infrastructure gaps in terms of connectivity and accessibility. These gaps result in relative isolation of parts of the country and negatively affect regional and internal integration and trade. The country is located at the intersection of Central Asia and South Asia, and the existing highways provide international links to Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, according to the statement.


The project will be implemented under the responsibility of Afghan Ministry of Public Works (MPW) over the next seven years.