New Delhi, Kabul Want Gas Pipeline To Pass Thru Afghanistan

KABUL, Aug 31 Asia Pulse - New Delhi and Kabul have agreed that the long-delayed multi-billion dollar gas pipeline - running from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India - will pass through Afghanistan.
At a news conference here on Tuesday, Abdul Rahim Karimi, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said an agreement to the effect was reached during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Kabul.

Karimi added the Indian prime minister and President Karzai, at their wide-ranging official talks, had underlined the need for the pipeline to run through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.

They also called for greater consultation and cooperation in executing the plan.

The US$3.2 billion project that has been in works for more than a decade would traverse a 917-kilometer overland distance through Afghanistan and earn the landlocked country $300 million annually besides creating job opportunities.

Owing to security concerns in Afghanistan, work on the ADB-backed pipeline, having a length of 1700 kilometers and a diameter of 56 inches, could not be initiated hitherto.

But officials, citing a marked improvement in the law and order situation, hope execution of the project will get under way by the close of the current year.

With regard to the drug situation, Karimi referred to the latest survey conducted by United Nation Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) that indicated a sharp decline of 21 per cent in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan this year.

He linked the huge decline in poppy cultivation to a sustained anti-narcotics campaign, cooperation from religious scholars and farmers' willingness to grow other crops.

Poppy cultivated over 4,007 hectares of land was destroyed and 150 opium smugglers held this year, he pointed out.

Answering another question, the presidential spokesman promised 300,000 plots would be distributed to returning returnees to help them construct houses for themselves.

Since the ouster of the Taliban government in late 2001, more than four million Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan and Iran.

Of them, some 220,000 families had already been given plots, he revealed, pledging similar assistance to other returnees as well.

The UN refugee agency is also providing help to Afghans coming back to their country.

Karimi went on to assure tight measures would be taken to secure the landmark legislative elections slated for September 18.

Afghan security forces, US-led coalition and NATO-headed ISAF troops have already announced they will step up efforts to ensure peaceful holding of the first post-Taliban vote.

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