Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Why a railway network in Afghanistan?

As Afghanistan seeks to reduce its dependence on foreign assistance and rebuild its economy on sustainable growth, much attention has been focused on establishing a national railway network. Thus Afghanistan National Railway Plan (ANRP) has been designed to utilize Afghanistan Strategic location and establish the country as a regional transportation hub, it also addresses the transportation needs of the mining sector, promote infrastructure as well as agricultural development, assist the country in narcotics irradiation and finally provide better connectivity of Afghanistan citizens and the countries around it by providing passenger transportation.

Regional Transportation Hub
ANRP is primarily designed to take advantage of country’s strategic location and link China to the middle-east and Europe as well as linking Central Asian Republics with the southern Asian countries. Thus Afghanistan will serve as the backbone for the development of Regional Economic Growth and Resource Corridors in and around Afghanistan. As such, the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAREC), and the G8-supported Border Region Prosperity Initiative have all supported the development of rail in Afghanistan. ANRP has also been identified as one of twelve Priority Investment Projects (PIPs) as part of the New Silk Road Initiative (NSRI). The primary objective of the NSRI is to rebuild vital regional trading corridors and reestablish Afghanistan as a transport and trading hub linking Central and South Asia. The proposed rail lines closely mirror the trading corridors as the rail system would serve as a critical means of transportation of goods and people to domestic, regional, and global markets.

Synergy between Railway and Mining Sector for Economic Development
Recent geological surveys estimate Afghanistan possesses more than US$1 trillion of exploitable mineral wealth. The greatest potential for wealth generation consists of bulk quantities of iron ore and copper. The best prospects for near-term revenue operation center on seven mining areas of interest: Hajl Gak, Syadara, and Zarkashan for Iron and Aynak, Balkhab, Dusar-Shaida, Kundulan, and Zarkashan for copper. Estimated net tonnages of minerals from Afghanistan's mining areas of Interest exceed 58 million metric tons per year. Output from the Haji Gak iron ore only is estimated to account for 80% of all mineral traffic. To successfully compete in the global iron ore market, Afghanistan will need to approach the level of efficiency achieved by low-cost producers such as Australia and the African Nations. Therefore Afghanistan's mining and railway sectors are integrally linked: mining requires a railway to efficiently transport bulk minerals to market, and sustainment of railway operations requires the demand from mining to be economically viable. If the country successfully leverages its vast iron ore and copper deposits, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) could generate nearly US$100 billion in combined revenue from rail and mining operations by 2040. This will vastly assist Afghanistan to develop an independent and sustainable economy leading Afghanistan towards economical and social development.

Promoting Infrastructure Development
Afghanistan Railway Network is instrumental in promoting power generation and transmissions around the country and the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI) pipeline development. Limited accessibility of roads to the power lines, transmitters and power generators create hurdles in maintenances and development of this sector while a good railway network could be very advantageous in this sector development. The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (also known as Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline, TAP or TAPI) is a proposed natural gas pipeline .This project will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. Afghanistan Railway Network will be utilized to transporting construction materials and vital for developing of this pipeline.

Promoting Agriculture Industry & Assisting Counter Narcotics Operation
Agriculture has traditionally driven Afghan economy; lack of reliable transportation system in the country which could link rural areas of the country to urban areas and regional markets is an obstacle to the development of this sector. Afghanistan Railway network would ensure the agricultural products could be picked up from the production sites and efficiently transported to other parts of the country and the region, resulting in Agricultural sector development in the country. It is anticipated that the construction of railway line and development of Agriculture industry will utilize thousands of unskilled laborers and generate jobs. Long-term employment opportunities will also be available for the operation, maintenance, and management of the rail system, resulting in decline of narcotics operations.

Promoting Population connectivity
Afghanistan road networks is heavily congested, the transportation of vast amount of commercial goods and a considerable volume of passenger transportation through these road networks have created a major challenge for the existing road infrastructure and its maintenance operation. Providing an alternative passenger transport through railway network is the long term strategic goal of the AfRA. This strategic goal could connect Afghans inside and beyond its borders.

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