Turkmenistan unveils plans for trans-Afghan gas pipeline project

Alma-ata, January 17, 2005 - The Turkmenistan government said on Monday a feasibility study for a trans-Afghan natural gas pipeline has been completed, and the construction of the long- delayed project could begin in 2006.

Turkmenistan's Oil and Gas Ministry said Monday the feasibility study, funded by the Asian Development Bank and conducted by the British company Penspen, "serves to speed up the start of realizing the plan for a trans-Afghan gas pipeline" to the Indian city of Fazilka, near the Pakistan-India border.

The study envisages a 1,680-meter-long pipeline that could carry 33 billion cubic meters of gas per year, the ministry said in a written statement. The 3.5 billion-US dollar pipeline is to run through Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan, the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Multan and on to Fazilka.

Gas-rich Turkmenistan has long hoped for a southern pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan as a way of reducing dependence on the pipeline network through Russia.

Since the collapse of the Taliban regime, the project has been revived. The planned pipeline would allow former Soviet Central Asian nations to export energy resources without relying on Russian routes.