Afghan Pipeline Deal Inked

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan have inked a deal to build a multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline connecting their counties. The 875-mile pipeline, estimated at approximately U.S. $3 billion, will link the vast gas reserves of Turkmenistan with Pakistan and, eventually, India. Due to the instability of Afghanistan, the project had been on hold since the mid-90s.

Asked after the signing ceremony if the security situation in Afghanistan meant that the pipeline was now a realistic option, Afghan President Hamid Karzai replied: "Very much so -- I believe it can be considered among the best in the region. Sure." Following the signing, a feasibility study will be drawn up, with $1.5 million in funding provided by the Asian Development Bank, and due to be presented in June 2003.

Initial plans call for the pipeline to run from the Davletbad gas field in southern Turkmenistan and Herat in western Afghanistan before swinging across the country to Kandahar in the south. From there it will run to Multan in Pakistan, with one potential future spur leading to the port of Gwadar, where a gas liquefaction plant could be built, and another to New Delhi.