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Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan: Improved Transport Infrastructure Likely To Link To China

Prague, 29 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The first highway link between Tajikistan and China is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. The road would connect to an important trade route that already exists between China and the Indian subcontinent -- the Karakoram Highway. Access to this road would give Tajikistan an alternative to its main export route through Uzbekistan, which periodically closes its border to exert political pressure on Dushanbe.

Meanwhile, work is continuing on a Soviet era project to extend a railroad line from Kulyab in southeastern Tajikistan to the central Tajik city of Kalai Khumb. That work, delayed by Tajikistan's civil war in 1992, was restarted in 1995.

A tunnel and road improvement project in the mountains between Dushanbe and the northern city of Ura-Tyube also has been proposed in an effort to keep transport running through the winter months and shorten travel time. But that project has been delayed by a lack of financing and shortages of materials.

The EBRD's broad strategy for transportation in Tajikistan is to lay the groundwork for investment -- first for aviation and then, following improvements in the economic climate, for road projects.

Kyrgyzstan: Economic Development Depends On Reliable Road, Air And Rail Links

Kyrgyzstan has not been able to adequately maintain its transportation network since 1991. Some of the main highways through mountainous terrain are no longer passable during winter months, leaving Bishkek cut off from the country's provincial centers.

The EBRD says the development of secure, reliable links by road, air and rail is a high priority for Kyrgyzstan's economic development. One project would improve the Bishkek Manas International Airport.

Another is an $86 million project to rehabilitate the road between Bishkek and the southern city of Osh. RFE/RL correspondents report that the 600 kilometer journey routinely takes 16 hours by car.

The EBRD and Japan are co-financing the improvements, which also would link the route to another road project passing into Tajikistan and possibly on to Pakistan.

Kyrgyzstan's rail network passes through parts of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Officials in Bishkek are trying to ensure that newly built railroad lines remain within Kyrgyz territory. There also are plans to build a rail link between Fergana, Uzbekistan to Kashgar in China.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that China is keen to open a trade route from Kashgar through southern Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan. Analysts say the project would strengthen China's regional position by giving it a route into Central Asia that avoids Kazakhstan, where Russia wields extensive influence.