Lead­ers launch start of Afghan sec­tion of TAPI gas pipe­line

Enterprise - - National News -

Re­gional lead­ers launched con­struc­tion work on the Afghan sec­tion of an $8 bil­lion nat­u­ral gas pipe­line that will link the en­ergy-rich Cen­tral Asian na­tion of Turk­menistan through Afghanistan to Pak­istan and In­dia.

Ex-Soviet Turk­menistan holds the world´s fourth-largest nat­u­ral gas re­serves but has been heav­ily de­pen­dent on gas ex­ports to China af­ter Rus­sia cut back gas im­ports in the past few years.

The project is ex­pected to trans­port 33 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres (bcm) of nat­u­ral gas a year along a 1,800 kilo­me­tre (1,125 miles) route from Galkynysh, the world´s sec­ond­biggest gas field, to Fazilka near the bor­der with Pak­istan in north­ern In­dia.

“South Asia is be­ing con­nected with Cen­tral Asia through Afghanistan af­ter more than a cen­tury of di­vi­sion,” Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani said.

He was speak­ing at a cer­e­mony at­tended by Turk­men Pres­i­dent Kur­ban­guly Berdy­mukhame­dov, Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi and In­dia´s Min­is­ter of State for Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs M.J. Ak­bar.

The pipe­line will al­low Turk­menistan to find new con­sumers in Asia and cut its de­pen­dence on Bei­jing, which buys about 35 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres of gas an­nu­ally. It is also be­ing seen as a cen­tral plank in am­bi­tious re­gional devel­op­ment goals. “TAPI will lead from a gas pipe­line into an en­ergy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion cor­ri­dor,” Ab­basi said, adding that as well as pro­vid­ing en­ergy, the pipe­line would un­der­pin devel­op­ment of road, rail and com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works.

The TAPI project, sup­ported by the United States and the Asian Devel­op­ment Bank, has been touted by Turk­menistan since the 1990s.

But the start of work was de­layed be­cause of the prob­lem of cross­ing Afghanistan.

The pipe­line will run for hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres (miles) through ar­eas of south­ern Afghanistan largely con­trolled by Tal­iban in­sur­gents fight­ing the West­ern-backed gov­ern­ment in Kabul but the move­ment has sig­nalled that it will not hin­der the project.

The Tal­iban is­sued a state­ment, pledg­ing its co­op­er­a­tion with TAPI, which it said would be an im­por­tant el­e­ment in build­ing up Afghanistan´s eco­nomic in­fra­struc­ture.

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