Key road project in Bamiyan stalled over budget issues

The Yakawlang-Dara-e-Suf road, Bamiyan. Sept. 2022.

The construction of a key road, connecting central Afghanistan with the north, has stalled over budget issues since last year after the fall of the previous government.

The construction of the 187-kilometer road from Yakawlang district in Bamiyan to Dara-e-Suf district in northern Samangan province was completed by 60 percent before it was stalled in August 2021.

The project was already marred by inattention and corruption under the previous government as it started in Jan. 2017 and was expected to take three and a half years to be completed but it hasn’t been executed so far.

The project worth nearly $205 million was contracted with China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) funded by Asian Development Bank.

Dubbed the north-south corridor, the project encompasses 909 kilometers of road, including 135 kilometers from Mazar-e-Sharif city in Balkh to Dara-e-Suf district in Samangan, 178 kilometers from Samangan to Yakawlang district to Bamiyan, 43 kilometers from Yakawlang to Bamiyan city and 194 kilometers from Kandahar to Chora district in Uruzgan.

A Taliban spokesman in Bamiyan, Saboor Saighani, said they are committed to completing incomplete projects but added that work on the Bamiyan road construction will begin after Afghanistan’s frozen assets are released.

Experts said the road can be an alternative for the Salang pass, which has been used to connect Kabul with the northern provinces for many decades.

“Even if the frozen assets are released, it will not be enough for development projects,” said Baqir Marifat, a university lecturer in Bamiyan.”

But Abdul Khaliq Haqmal, another Taliban official who heads the public works directorate in Bamiyan, said many pieces of machinery have been left from the Chinese company and that he hopes the project will resume soon.

Parts of the Yakawlang-Dara-e-Suf highway that have been constructed are at risk of damage due to overloaded trucks. But the public works directorate said vehicles carrying over 42 tons of weight are not allowed to pass the road.

For now, the Salang pass, which is part of a key highway, is a main route to connect the eastern and southern parts of the country with the north, including the Torkham crossing in the east with the Sherkhan Bandar border city in the north.

According to analysts, the Yakawlang-Dara-e-Suf road is the only alternative for the route and will ease trade and transportation once it is completed.