Construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline to start in 2004

Sep 16, 2002 02:00 AM

Work on a huge gas pipeline project connecting Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan could get under way within two years following decades of war-stalled negotiations, officials said. "The financial process will start a year after June next year and construction will begin shortly after," Seethapathy Chander, a representative of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), told.
The ADB is conducting a $ 1.5-mm feasibility study into the plan to build the 1,500 km (900-mile), $ 2 bn pipeline which is hoped to bring new prosperity to an area hit by conflict and drought. The pipeline linking energy-rich Central Asia with Pakistan has been on the drawing board for more than 20 years, but has been thwarted by two decades of conflict in Afghanistan and regional and global friction.

Despite ongoing insecurity in Afghanistan, where US-led forces continue to pursue suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, Chander said he was confident nothing would now stand in its way. "We are sure this prestigious project, which has enormous benefits, will go forward as planned," Chander told a meeting attended by senior ministers from all three countries.
Afghan Mines Minister Juma Mohammadi said the pipeline would offer a much-needed financial boost for his country and the region. "This will be beneficial for the economic development of Afghanistan, by creating jobs and providing gas for our needs. "The project will make a substantial contribution to the economic development of Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries," Mohammadi said.

Estimates put gas reserves in Central Asia at some 235 tcf (6.7 tcm) -- the vast majority in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan Vice President Yolly Gurbanmuradou said the pipeline was only one of a raft of schemes, including electricity and railway links, which would strengthen ties between his country and Afghanistan. "We want peace and prosperity to be established in the region and we are confident this project will contribute towards this," he said.
Pakistan Energy Minister Usman Aminaddin said his country was prepared to discuss setting aside differences with neighbouring India to extend what he called the "first mega-project of the 21st century". "President Pervez Musharraf has given his assurance... of the flow of hydrocarbons into the world market, including India," he said. "We intend to work with all the stakeholders in bringing this project to fruition."

So far no multinational energy firms have been named in connection with the pipeline, although it is believed major industry players are vying for a stake. Competition to win tenders for the ambitious scheme has in the past been described as "The New Great Game", a reference to the 19th century struggle between Tsarist Russia and Britain for influence in the region.
Afghan Reconstruction Minister Amin Fahrang, said the Afghan government was already in negotiations with energy giants TotalFinaElf and ExxonMobil. But according to Aminaddin, international investors would only be invited once the ADB feasibility study is completed next year. "No single country or group of countries can do this alone but if the project is feasible then I do not think financing is a problem," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse
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