The World Bank on Tuesday approved a $250 million grant to help support the Afghanistan government's efforts to improve road transport links across the Hindukush mountain range, including the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel.
According to a statement issued by the World Bank, 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.Currently, there are only two road crossings over the mountain range, with the Salang highway carrying most of the cross-Hindukush traffic. The second road is an unpaved crossing between Baghlan and Bamiyan.According to Bob Saum, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan: ""Rehabilitating these roads to create reliable connections across the Hindukush mountain range is essential for Afghanistan's economic prospects and for national integration."He 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."The Salang pass was built in the 1960s, and is located between 2,500 and 3,400 meters altitude above sea level. It is a critical road that connects Afghanistan's northern provinces, in addition to Central Asian countries, with the capital Kabul and the rest of the country to south Asia.Afghanistan suffers 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, said the World Bank.More than 90 percent of freight and almost 85 percent of intercity passenger transport are carried by road transport. The total length of Afghanistan's road network is about 123,000 km but nearly 80 percent of the roads are not 'all-season' roads.According to the World Bank, the Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project will be implemented under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) over the next seven years.MPW has appointed a high-level official to ensure close oversight of the project implementation and its coordination with stakeholders, read the statement.Given the wider impact of this project on Afghanistan as a whole, 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. The Committee will be chaired by the Minister of Public Works and will include high-level representatives from various ministries and agencies as needed, said the World Bank.