“Workers are laying track across north Afghanistanâ€™s rolling grassland for the countryâ€™s first rail line, a project that will boost the economy, supply NATO troops and become a target for Taliban bombs.
The railway, being built by Uzbekistanâ€™s state railroad, will run 75 kilometers (45 miles) from the Uzbek border to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, said Craig Steffensen, Kabul-based Afghanistan country director for the Asian Development Bank, who has inspected the work.
…More rail construction may follow. A separate line partly built by Iran into Afghanistanâ€™s northwest, plus two projects being studied by China and the development bank, could give north Afghanistan the shortest rail link yet from Central Asia to Iranian seaports, and the first standard-gauge line from the Pacific Ocean to Europe, said Steffensen and Farooqi.
A standard-gauge route would eliminate the need for trans- Asian trains to stop at the Chinese-Kazakh border and in Eastern Europe to change their wheel assemblies to fit the broader ex- Soviet rail gauge.
Oil and Gas
Beijing-based Metallurgical Corp. of China Ltd. agreed to help build a railway to export ore in 2007 when it won the license for Afghanistanâ€™s biggest copper mine. Afghan and Chinese officials have discussed a route north through Tajikistan to western China, Farooqi said.
Reports show Afghanistan has more than 150 million barrels of oil reserves and more than 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas, the U.S. Geological Survey says.
…In northwest Afghanistan, Iran has built two-thirds of a 190-kilometer rail bed from the Iranian town of Khaf to the northwestern Afghan city of Herat. The Afghan government is seeking funds to build the rest, deputy public works minister Ahmad Shah Waheed said.
The development bank is funding technical surveys for a line of more than 700 kilometers (430 miles) to connect the two Afghan spurs under construction. That would offer the five, landlocked Central Asian countries
- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which have a combined Malaysia-sized GDP of $187 billion- their most direct trade route to Iranâ€™s Gulf or Indian Ocean ports. "
2010-05-06 00:51:08 UTC