Trans-Asian gas pipeline to be completed by 2005
The construction of an ambitious pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan is expected to be
completed by 2005, a Turkmen minister said. "The construction of the pipeline is planned to be completed in 2005,"
said Tachberdy Tagiyev, Turkmenistan's minister of oil and gas industry and mineral resources.
The project to build the 1,500 km pipeline from gas-rich Turkmenistan to Pakistan has been discussed for 20 years, although its realisation has been thwarted by two decades of conflict in Afghanistan. The plan for the trans-Afghan link received a major boost in May when the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue the pipeline project.
The $ 2 bn project then took another step forward in July when the Asian Development Bank agreed to conduct a $ 1.5
mm feasibility study into the pipeline. According to Tagiyev, the feasibility study will be completed by June 2003
and international firms will then be given the chance to form a consortium to push ahead with the project. "After the
completion of the feasibility study in June 2003, international firms will be sent offers about forming a consortium
to realise the project," the minister said.
The heads of state of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan are expected to sign an agreement on the pipeline in Ashgabat during a summit from December 26 to 27, Turkmen deputy prime minister, Yolly Gurbanmuradov, said. Tagiyev said that the document prepared for signing was an intergovernmental framework agreement on the pipeline, which regulates the legal basis for the formation of a consortium, the transit of gas and the issue of security.
The pipeline, which Tagiyev said would have a capacity of 20 bn cm, has a long and rather controversial history. US energy company Unocal once led efforts to build the link, but its plans were scuppered in 1998 when US cruise missiles struck Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, leaving the project apparently aborted.