By: Shukria Kohistani
Afghanistan Ministry of Public Work has informed that preliminary work for the construction of the 2nd tunnel in Salang is underway, saying that by construction of the second tunnel in the area problems of passengers and truck drivers will be addressed.
The new Salang tunnel is going to be constructed with 7km length and 300m lower than the old tunnel. Truck drivers commuting from Kabul – Mazar-e-Sharif and Mazar-e-Sharif – Kabul usually face with lots of problems upon crossing the old tunnel.
“All those crossing the current Salang tunnel should spend hours to cross it. Traffic incidents are the common business and situation of the inside tunnel is really bad,” said Rajab, a truck driver travelling from Logar – Mazar-e-Sharif and cross the current Salang tunnel.
That route passes through Afghanistan’s perilous Salang Tunnel, 11,000 feet up in the Hindu Kush mountains. The Soviet-built tunnel was heralded as a marvel of engineering when completed in 1964. But years of war, neglect and geology have turned it into a dangerous bottleneck.
Driving through the Salang Tunnel is a pretty harrowing experience. Water pours in through holes in the wall. Whatever pavement might once have existed has long since deteriorated into an extremely rough, bumpy, dirt, and in some places, mud road.
The tunnel is barely wide enough for two lanes of traffic, and the uneven road surface means trucks often tilt over at precarious angles. Even though the tunnel is only 1.6 miles long, a recent drive through it took more than 20 minutes because it’s jammed with massive trucks inching along the cratered road.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan ministry of public work says due to current problems, plan for construction of the second tunnel in Salang is underway.
“During the past years, the road has been partially destroyed due to explosions and heavy loaded trucks and trailers. Currently, the ministry of public work is seriously working on taking preliminary steps towards construction of a new tunnel in Salang,” said Mohammad Ashraf Haqshanas, deputy spokesperson to the public work ministry.
He said that technical studies and design planning for construction of the new tunnel has been almost finalized and its construction agreement worth $19.6 million funded by the Asian Development Bank has been signed with an international construction company.
A number of Afghan experts believe that construction of the new tunnel in Salang will help develop the country’s economic as it is a key transit route connecting southern provinces with the country’s north. Nearly 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles pass through the tunnel each day. But recently, traffic through the Salang has soared. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 vehicles are now passing through daily, and construction of the new tunnel in Salang pass will further address problems of passengers and drivers.