ADB to help finance national highway rehabilitation in Afghanistan

Manila, September 30, 2006 (Xinhua) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help finance the construction of a national highway in Afghanistan that will connect remote areas to the country's center through a loan and grant package totaling 138.2 million U.S. dollars, an ADB report said on Friday.

The project will rehabilitate 140.3 kilometers of the Mazar-e- Sharif-Dara-i-Suf road and 98.9 kilometers of the Bamian-Yakawlang road, which comprise the north-south corridor connecting the ring road through central Afghanistan, said the report.

"Afghanistan has made significant progress in the past few years; however, its economic and fiscal situation continues to be extremely fragile," said Dong-Soo Pyo, an ADB principal financial specialist. "To accelerate the country's transition, continued investment in the road sector is a prerequisite."

The project also entails installation of cross-border facilities in Spin Boldak and an HIV/AIDS prevention and anti- human trafficking awareness campaign.

Road rehabilitation efforts in the war-torn country have so far focused on regional highways, particularly on the ring road, with emphasis on trade links to neighboring countries. These road projects are expected to be completed by 2008.

The Government's next priority is the development of the north- south and east-west corridors, which connect the ring road to improve access for people living in remote areas at the center of the country. More than 90 percent of national highways and provincial roads are either earth or gravel, and more than 60 percent are in poor condition.