Washington DC, October 20, 2015 – The World Bank today approved a $250 million grant to help support the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts to improve road transport links across the Hindukush mountain range, including the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel.
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. 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. 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).
“Rehabilitating these roads to create reliable connections across the Hindukush mountain range is essential for Afghanistan’s economic prospects and for national integration,” said Bob Saum, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “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.”
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.
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. 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. 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. About 63 percent of the population is more than two kilometers away from an all-season road.
The Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project is expected to have the following key characteristics:
· Developing and upgrading the Baghlan to Bamiyan road to become a safe and dependable Hindukush crossing, which can be used as an alternative when the Salang highway is closed due to weather-related events or due to construction work.
· 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 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. 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.